Director: Joel Schumacher
Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker
Time: 123 min.
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Tom Welles is an ordinary guy. He’s got a wife he loves (Catherine Keener) and a baby girl, and he’s a successful private eye. Then one day, a rich old widow requests him for a rather peculiar job. Her husband had a secret safe, and when it was opened after his death, she found a film showing what appears like a young girl being murdered. The lady wants Welles to find out if it’s a fake or if it’s actually one of these infamous snuff films. But what begins like just another investigation soon becomes a more and more disturbing venture into the dark side.
This is a bleak and violent film which was written by Andrew Kevin Walker, who reached a new height in psychological horror with David Fincher’s “Se7en”. His latest story is not as complex and intelligent, but it still has a promising premise. The atmosphere is tense and somber, and we’re eager to see how far Welles will go to discover the truth. Welles is intensely played by the always enjoyable Nicolas Cage. I like how he goes from a laid-back regular Joe to a freaked out man on the edge, as he sinks deep into evil. And then there’s the Joaquin Phoenix character, a no-nonsense, streetwise sex shop clerk who guides Cage through the porn underworld. Phoenix is real good and real fun, and he brings some comic relief. As for the perverted bad guys, they’re caricatural but they’re interesting.
So basically, the film should have been great, right? Not really. It’s a pretty good film, but it never gets to the next level. It is directed by Joel Schumacher, who’s really not a great filmmaker. This is better than his previous flick, “Batman & Robin” (what isn’t?), but it’s still a flawed film. He really doesn’t look like he knows how to craft a movie. The pacing is often all wrong, and some shots are horrible. Schumacher must be trying to give the film a sinister look, but he doesn’t really succeed. Combine this to the script’s weak third act and it spells trouble. By then, what originally seemed like a bizarre neo-film noir has become just another conventional action thriller. In the end, “8mm” is uneven at best. It has some worthy moments, but it could have been so much more.