8MM (1999) / Thriller-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong perverse sexuality and violence, and for strong language
Running Time: 123 min.
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, Anthony Heald, Chris Bauer, Catherine Keener, Myra Carter
Director: Joel Schumacher
Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker
Review published July 26, 1999
A small-time private eye (Cage, Snake Eyes) is hired by a wealthy widow (Carter, The Love Letter) to learn the secret to a short 8mm film found in her deceased husband's safe. It appears to be a snuff film featuring the brutal killing of a helpless girl and it's up to the PI to find out who the girl is and if the tape is real. His travels take him to the house of the girl's and eventually to Hollywood where he must crack through the underbelly of the film industry and talk to some underground porn producers. His journey into further depravity takes him further and further away from his wife and daughter, causing his grip on his sanity to whither in the process.
Impressive performances by Cage and Gandolfini (A Civil Action) give this gritty film the credibility it needs as 8mm could have easily been far worse than it was. This is a real bitter pill and most people will likely find it distasteful and unbearable to watch due to the sordid and dark subject matter of the film.
The plot is very similar to the George C. Scott film from two decades before called Hardcore, but this movie has enough new twists to give it a life of its own. It's a miserable, filthy, and somewhat poor excuse for entertainment, and while the film may be well made as a whole, it was an unnecessary excursion under a rock that not everyone would like to look under. Recommended only for those with the thickest of skins.
©1999 Vince Leo