8MM (1999)

Well, on paper it sure looked good:  a stylish director (Joel Schu-
macher), a big-name tough guy (Nick Cage), the pull-no-punches 
screenwriter of SEVEN (Andrew Kevin Walker), and a meaty missing-
person premise set in the subculture of underground sex films.  So 
how badly *does* 8MM suck?  Well, the first hour's half-decent.  
Boring, sure, but with an ass-load of atmosphere-- the dark photo-
graphy, the creepy music, and whatnot.  Cage plays a PA PI hired by 
a tycoon's widow after a seeming "snuff film" is discovered in her 
hubby's vault.  Is it real (reel?) or just the stuff of urban leg-
ends?  Cage's character-- a family man, for a change-- takes the 
case and takes to the streets, first in Cleveland (grubby as all 
get-out), and then on LA and Manhattan.

However promising Cage's casting seems, the actor practically 
sleepwalks here.  His character's a big zero, too, but, again, at 
least the atmosphere's good.  Plus, there's the promise of a per-
verse payoff.  Maybe a peek-- if only "R"-rated-- into the world of 
S&M and such.  (Truth be told, there's actually far *less* sleaze 
than you might expect.  You'll learn more about *investigative* 
techniques than any Fancy Sex Tricks to Try at Home.)  As for the 
others, Joaquin Phoenix adds some sorely needed spunk as a Truman 
Capote-reading adult-bookstore clerk.  (Sample dialogue:  "Could I 
interest you in a battery-powered vagina?")  Catherine Keener takes 
the thankless role of Cage's character's baby-tending wife.  And, 
later, James Gandolfini (who licks a gun barrel!) and Peter Stor-
mare (only half-wacky) appear as a pair of partnered pornographers. 

Eh, what ultimately sends this blue dress to the dry cleaners is a 
weak script.  A couple of early plot holes are easy enough to ig-
nore; it's a later revelation that makes absolutely no sense.  (To 
those who've seen the movie:  why didn't the guy just take care of 
it himself?)  From that point, maybe 70 or 80 minutes in, things 
only go downhill.  There's spying and stalking and slashing and 
bashing.  (Plus a few interesting underlying issues, such as what 
makes a man a monster.)  By the final scenes, with Cage slugging it 
out with a leather-masked maniac, we might as well be watching pro 
wrestling.  (And in this corner... George "The Crusher" Constanza!) 
Oh well, at least the evening's Jordan Almond spill was exciting.  
My, those candies sure do roll!  (Rated "R"/~120 min.)

Grade: D+

Copyright 1999 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: The Suck Report

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros