Ben Sanderson, a Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his alcoholism, arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera..
In order to foil a terrorist plot, an FBI agent undergoes a facial transplant surgery and assumes the identity and physical appearance of a terrorist, but the plan turns from bad to worse when the same terrorist impersonates the FBI agent.
A small, seemingly innocuous plastic reel of film leads surveillance specialist Tom Welles down an increasingly dark and frightening path. With the help of the streetwise Max, Welles relentlessly follows a bizarre trail of evidence to determine the fate of a complete stranger. As his work turns into obsession, he drifts farther and farther away from his wife, family and simple life as a small-town private eye.Written by
When it came out, "8mm" became notorious for its dark and perverted subject matter. Any and all warnings that are given in association with this film are warranted: this is a dark, dark, thriller, and one that revels in a lot of sordid subject matter. How this was never threatened with an NC-17 is beyond me.
Tom Welles (Nicholas Cage) is a well-respected private detective. One day, he gets a call from a recently widowed, and exceedingly wealthy woman named Mrs. Christian (Myra Carter). It seems that when Mrs. Christian was going through her husbands things, she came across a film reel that appears to be a "snuff film" (a "snuff film is where someone is actually murdered on screen, not merely acting like it). Tom is hired to find out if the film is actually real.
Andrew Kevin Walker wrote the suspense hit "Seven," and the two films bear a number of similarities. Both deal with grisly and bizarre subject matter, and take no prisoners when they show it all. But "Seven" had something that "8mm" doesn't: a sense of atmosphere. Try as he might, director Joel Schumaker can't establish an ominous atmosphere, which mutes the film's impact.
The acting varies. Nicholas Cage is effective as Tom Welles, though that's to be expected because this is a role that Cage could play in his sleep. Joaquin Phoenix shines as Max California, the porn star clerk who becomes Tom's sidekick. The rest of the cast is not so great. James Gandolfini is okay as Eddie Poole, but Peter Stormare (Dino Velvet, a mysterious hard-core porn producer), Anthony Heald as Mrs. Christian's lawyer, Daniel Longdale, (looking strikingly similar to Geraldo Rivera) and Catherine Keener (Tom's neurotic wife)are awful.
"8mm" works, but it's not masterpiece. The story is easy to follow, as long as you don't stop to think about how the film gets from one scene to the next. But the final 20 minutes are bad; they're not credible, and everyone acts like they've lost their brains.
"Seven" contained an ingenious twist ending, and while "8mm" doesn't offer that, it takes a few unexpected turns, and the story is not formulaic.
This is a good film, but not a great one. Recommended, if you can get it for cheap.
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