8MM review

:. Director: Joel Schumacher
:. Starring: Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix
:. Running Time: 1:43
:. Year: 1999
:. Country: USA


Nicolas Cage and Joel Schumacher have us accustomed to their hits and misses, Face-Off & Snake Eye on the one hand and Falling Down & Batman & Robin on the other, the worst winning by knock out (For clemency's sake I've spared you the entire list.). With 8MM and the help of the writer of Seven, these 2 Hollywood mammoths have saved face by tackling one of the most taboo subjects.

8MM is a descent into the abysses of human perversion. Nicholas Cage portrays an honest detective who takes on the responsibility of authenticating a snuff movie discovered in a millionaire's safe deposit box by his widow. Snuff movies are to cinema what UFO's are to certain redheaded FBI agent. Even if the existence of films where death is not simulated has never been proven, it is difficult to believe that there isn't someone somewhere twisted enough capable of such a thing. Nicholas Cage goes to find the young victim of this snuff film, guided by a sex shop clerk, the always convincing Joaquin Phoenix, into the nauseating lower depths of pornography and bondage. This "initiation" into an underground world is reminiscent of Al Pacino's role in Friedkin's Cruising.

The film, in gray tones, is suffocating but avoids voyeurism, whereas one can only imagine the result in the hands of a director like Adrian Lyne. All stratums of American society are thrown in the same bag, from the basest leach to the rich to the puritan, and 8MM succeeds by resisting to give some excuse or justification for the acts of crime committed. Don't wait for a moral at the end to renew your hope again like in some talk-show.

With respects to Nicholas Cage, for once he doesn't overdo it, the only exception being the scene where he first watches the snuff film, while Joaquin Phoenix realistically interprets a victim of the Hollywood dream. Finally, Joel Schumaker seems to master his subject (!!) and avoids inflicting us with the presence of Chris O'Donnell and Alicia Silverstone.

Like Cage's character, you won't leave unscathed from this voyage to the end of hell, which isn't all that far away, judging by the shelves of those shady neighborhood video stores.

  Fred Thom

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