8MM - 1999
August Films / Warner Brothers
Ratings: Norway & U.K: 18 / Sweden: 15 / USA: R
As I sit down to write this review, I asked myself "What the Hell does writer Andrew Kevin Walker do with his nights?" Watch this flick, then watch SE7EN, which he also wrote. Note all the dark, sleazy scenes, despite two very different directors. Drawing on experience? Perhaps,
perhaps not. But whatever his inspiration, it worked for the films.
The first half of 8MM is somewhat boring, showing a lot of exposition and plot
set-up. Private investigator Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage: BRINGING OUT THE DEAD) is hired by a millionaire's elderly widow (Myra
Carter) to investigate what appears to be a snuff film she discovered
in her husband's wall safe. He at first assumes that it's phony, and the
old woman's lawyer (Anthony Heald: SILENCE
OF THE LAMBS, DEEP RISING)
assures him that it must be. However, after watching the old 8mm reel in which a young girl is brutally murdered by a huge man in a leather mask, he decides to take the case.
Some time is spent chasing leads and visiting the young girl's mother, but once
his search takes him to a small-time pornographer played by James Gandolfini
(FALLEN), things really start to take off.
Welles tour guide through the porn underground is an intelligent kid who's music career
never quite took off, and he found himself stuck as a clerk at an adult
bookstore. The character, Max California, is well-played by Joaquin Phoenix
(U-TURN), and his character's statement "When you dance with the devil, you don't change him: the devil changes you"
becomes a sort of theme for the entire film.
As Welles gets closer and closer to the truth, he finds himself deeper and deeper
in filth and depravity. He sees things that many people would love to
forget exists, or in other cases, would rather not admit they were even
remotely involved in. He visits the murdered girl's mother, and can't
help but be affected by her fear and despair that her daughter has never
been found, and he just doesn't have the heart to tell her what's happened.
The end is the ultimate example of just how far what he sees takes out of our Mr.
Welles, and unfortunately I can't elaborate without giving away the ending.
I will say that it was a terrific ending, however, and one that I felt
was perfect for the film. Just sit through the first hour, then let the
rest of the film take you for a ride.
The film also stars Peter Stormare (JURASSIC
PARK 2: THE LOST WORLD) as Dino Velvet, a big-time director and distributer of hardcore pornography. Another
underrated actor, Stormare plays the role of the sleazeball to the hilt.
Keep an eye on him for the film's only moment of humor.
A somewhat surprising moment is when Welles finally confronts "Machine",
the man in the leather mask (Christopher Bauer: THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, FACE/OFF). The brief dialogue they share
is gives us another of Walker's statements on the darker side of humanity.
I'll admit that while the opening credits were flashing across the screen and I saw
"Directed by Joel Schumacher", my heart sank. Sure, he did a
few decent horror flicks like THE
LOST BOYS and FLATLINERS, but the guy took Batman and Robin closer
to being a couple of pucker pounders than anyone before him, and effectively
destroyed the franchise with its overacting and and just plain weird sets
and effects. Then there's the horrible ending to FALLING DOWN . . .
Anyway, I've got to give the guy credit on 8MM.
He pulled no punches and it was very well done. It's intense, it makes
sense, it makes a point without ramming it down your throat, and it holds
one's interest. Again, could have been paced better in the beginning,
but I guess you've got to find some way to get characters from point A
to point B that is realistic. Any other way would have probably been noticeably
I give it four shriek girls. Not for the squeamish.
copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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