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8MM

Starring: Nicolas Cage
Director: Joel Schumacher
Genre: Thriller
Year: 1999
Rating: 3 / 5

I have a confession to make. Hollywood has left me desensitized to violence. This has been a gradual process, carefully carried out over the last ten years. During that time, I have sat through countless films touting violence and its glorious tradition. I have witnessed enormous body counts, only to watch them followed by the latest witty retort. Do not misunderstand - I certainly enjoy such films. Just do not expect me to flinch or cringe at the sight of the supposedly revolting material contained in Joel Schumacher's 8MM. Seven this film is not, and therein lies its greatest fault. 8MM attempts to show us the gruesome heart of the proverbial "next door neighbor," the depths to which man can sink, yet it is a revelation which has been handled before, and handled better.

Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) is a respected private investigator given a case from which he cannot seem to walk away. Upon examining her deceased husband's belongings, a wealthy widow finds what appears to be an 8mm snuff film. It depicts the very graphic death (not shown) of an unknown young woman, and the widow wishes to find out its true origins. But is this film even real? After all, snuff films are the stuff of legend, and any attempt to learn otherwise is dismissed with curt denials. Such is the situation which faces Tom Welles when he agrees to take on this potentially troubling case.

After weeks of fruitless searching, Tom uncovers his first big break when he learns the identity of the young woman. This discovery, made after looking through numerous photos of missing persons, leads Tom to the girl's hidden diary, which in turn leads him across the country to Los Angeles. It is there that he meets Max California (Joaquin Phoenix), a clerk at a seedy bookstore and Tom's new link to the dark pornographic underworld. As Tom descends deeper and deeper into this world, he begins to realize that he is not simply trying to solve this perplexing case. He is hoping to save his very soul.

Director Joel Schumacher seems to have made a habit of making good films that cannot make the leap to being considered truly great ones. 8MM is no exception, as it is about four years too late to shock the American populace. Nicolas Cage delivers a slightly maddening turn as a family man losing his grip on reality, though he appears to be the film's only true star. James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) is passable as a sleazy porn king, though he might not want to quit his day job. The film wants to hinge its success on the shocking nature of man's true inner self, and on its somewhat surprising conclusion. The problem is that we as an audience are all too aware of what man is capable of. That painful reality hit us some time ago.

Cast:
Nicolas Cage..........Tom Welles
Joaquin Phoenix..........Max California
James Gandolfini..........Eddie Poole

Certification: Rated R for violence, language, and sexual situations.
Running Time: 123 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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[critics]