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8MM (1999)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Director:
Joel Schumacher Joel Schumacher
Starring:
Nicolas Cage Nicolas Cage
Joaquin Phoenix Joaquin Phoenix
James Gandolfini James Gandolfini
Peter Stormare Peter Stormare
Anthony Heald Anthony Heald

6.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Crime Thriller, Thriller
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Review by Chad
Added: September 24, 2004
Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) is a freelance private investigator who basically gets the word about his dealings around by word of mouth among his friends and associates. To start the movie up, he's hired by Mrs. Christian (Myra Carter), the elderly, newly-widowed wife of a big businessman. After her husband died, she went through his possessions and found a movie that has what appears to be murder locked up in a safe behind a painting in his office. On this video, we see a big, stocky fellow in a B&D mask by the name of Machine (Christopher Bauer) who slaps this young girl around a bit, and then proceeds to stab her to death. Thus, Mrs. Christian has hired Tom to find out whether or not this snuff movie is real or not, and if it's found out to be a fake, she wants him to find the girl in the video so that she can be assured that it was indeed faked. Tom takes the case, and along the way he meets up with a large cast of characters. The first on his list is the potentially-dead girl's mother Janet (Amy Morton), where he finds out that her daughter was on her way to Hollywood to become a big movie star. Tom then heads over to Hollywood to find out where she is, and starts looking around for some dealers of snuff movies to find out some information. On his travels, he meets a porn-store clerk by the name of Max California (Joaquin Phoenix), who proves to be quite knowledgeable about the porn business, including the shady and illegal side of things. Moving along in his quest for answers, he proceeds to meet up with Eddie Poole (James Gandolfini), a "talent scout" involved with finding young ladies for porno movies, and Dino Velvet (Peter Stormare), a director of some bizarre hardcore bondage videos, while constantly having to put up with his worried wife Catherine Keener (Amy Welles). What a hard life for Mr. Welles, indeed.

I rented this movie mainly because it sounded interesting, though the numerous comments floating around the intraweb about it featuring "shocking" and "controversial" scenes that really pushed the limits of an R-rating sure helped my decision on this one. I find those claims to be completely insane, unless the person saying such has never seen any sort of horror or action film in their life. Let's break down the shocking scenes here, shall we? First up, we have the snuff video itself. No nudity here, and if you've seen any of the "Friday The 13th" or "A Nightmare On Elm Street" movies, you've already seen far more graphic footage than that found here. Moving along, we see a mans penis for a second or two, which wasn't very shocking to myself due to the fact that, being male myself, I see one of those everyday during the showering process. Your mileage may vary, however. If I recall correctly, there was a whopping two scenes showing female breasts, which again, shouldn't be something that hasn't been seen by anybody who's ever seen an R-rated film. One of those breast-baring scenes shows the female spanking a males ass for a second or two, major controversy there. Wrapping things up, there's also a single mention of both bestiality and pedophilia here, which could have pulled some controversy if shown, but both only pulled an appearance via words here.

However, with all that out of the way, this was actually a pretty decent film. Nothing ground-breakingly fantastic or anything like that, but it did keep me entertained for the two hour running time. The storyline here is the best part of the movie, flowing along while being both entertaining and logical; a combination we don't really see enough of these days. There's a large number of new scenes and people thrown in the mix throughout the film, and none of it seems to be thrown in for padding up the running-time, nor does anything get to be dull or illogical either. Nice mix there, and even though I've read that director Joel Schumacher really altered the hell out of the original scripts storyline, it came out being entertaining enough for me. The only thing I really had a problem with was the nagging wife found here; while her part in the film did make some sense in the overall message of the film, her scenes just drug any sort of flow and mood down due to the boring-ness of her lines and Tom's replies. I'm not saying she should have been cut out totally, though they definitely should have cut the amount of scenes in half.

The acting here was pretty solid throughout; I'm a fan of Nicolas Cage, and it was nice to see him in a non-action role for a change. He did a great job with this role, thankfully, though it was quite laughable watching his reactions while he watched the snuff video in the beginning of the film. Joaquin Phoenix (Max), his partner throughout most of the movie, also pulled out a great performance. I've never been a big fan of his work, but I do give credit where it's deserved. James Gandolfini (Eddie) was also highly enjoyable in his role, coming off great in his eventual turn near the midway point. The rest of the cast, while not bad by any means, didn't really stand out as being great or anything. Nobody was boring or flat-out horrible, but nobody else struck me as anything above average either.

Overall, this would be worth a rental if you enjoy detective'ish thrillers, but (as always) avoid the hype surrounding the footage. Nothing special there, not by a long shot. 7/10, final.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 12/27/2005, 05:53 PM
This could have been such a great film, but Joel Schumacher could fuck up a documentary on blank space. The premise is interesting enough and both Nicolas Cage and James Gandolfini turned in nice performance, but I blame Schumacher for failing to explore a lot more territory with a film about snuff films. 1/10.
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