8mm (18)

Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini

A grimy and distasteful thriller that examines the hardcore porn industry, and more specifically the myth of so-called snuff movies; films that are said to feature actual killings.

Cage is quietly impressive as private detective Tom Welles, who is called to the house of an recently widowed rich old lady who has discovered what may be a snuff movie in her late husband's safe. Is it a fake or was the rich old man involved in a murder? Welles is guided by Joaquin Phoenix as he makes contact with the lowest of the low lifes, and some truly dangerous criminals.

The main problem I, and I think many people would have with this film is the highly revolting nature of the plot. I felt in need of a shower after watching this grubby film. Even making Cage so sympathetic didn't compensate for a whole array of seedy and depraved characters. Having said that, if Schumacher's intention was to show the depths that human beings can sink to, well, he succeeded. However, the heavy handed emotional manipulation was probably a bit overdone. We have the usual cliché of Cage as a perfect family man complete with cute baby and a movie wife who puts up with everything. The victim, a young girl with a tragically grieving mother living im squalid limbo with no news of her daughter, the criminals - sadistic, slimy and repellant. You only need to checkout the cast to see the extent of Schumachers imagination. Anthony Heald - the creepy shrink who tried to pick up Jodie Foster in Slience of the Lambs and Peter Stormare the nutter killer from Fargo. They keep entirely to their expected roles and indeed there are few real surprises in this film. Go expecting a taut thriller with a distasteful subject matter and you won't be disappointed. Go expecting an thoughtful examination of the nature of pornography, or something original in the well worked thriller genre, then hard luck.

Written by Andrew Kevin Walker who wrote the far superior Se7en, this film has its moments, but I found it to be one of the most depressing and uncomfortable I have seen for ages. Well plotted and always compelling, nevetheless, I really didn't want to know about the hardcore porn industry and it made me feel like a voyeur myself. Take you dirty mac to watch this one. 5/10

April 1999

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