A small, seemingly innocuous plastic reel of film leads surveillance specialist Tom Welles down an increasingly dark and frightening path. With the help of the streetwise Max, he relentlessly follows a bizarre trail of evidence to determine the fate of a complete stranger. As his work turns into obsession, he drifts farther and farther away from his wife, family and simple life as a small-town PI.
Into the perverse underworld of smut, S&M and snuff films RELEASED IN 1999 and directed by Joel Schumacher, "8MM" chronicles events when a private investigator (Nicolas Cage) is hired by an aged wealthy woman whose husband recently passed away. A snuff film was found in his safe and she wants to see if the girl in the movie (Jenny Powell) really died or not. Amy Morton appears as the girl’s mother while Joaquin Phoenix plays a wannabe rock musician in Los Angeles who works in the porn trade. Catherine Keener is on hand as the P.I.’s wife. The movie combines the basic plot of “Hardcore” (1979) with the style of late 90’s crime thrillers, like “Kiss the Girls” (1997). The first half involves the P.I.’s tracking down the makers of the snuff film. While it’s tedious work (which I wouldn’t want to do) this part of the movie is gritty and compelling. The second half of the movie goes into material that’s difficult to pull off with a straight face, like the smut-obsessed underbelly of Los Angeles & New York. The main villains come off cartoonish somehow rather than gritty realistic, but it’s a fine line. Still, I like the message of the movie. My wife & I knew a wealthy man who passed away a few years ago. He often didn’t pay the people he did business with, not to mention his employees who were living paycheck to paycheck. Someone asked him how he could own two Cadillacs and regularly go on globetrotting vacations while treating people like this and he arrogantly responded: “Because I caaAAAN.” The low-lifes in “8MM” have a similar attitude. THE MOVIE RUNS 2 hours 3 minutes and was shot in Miami, Pennsylvania (Wormleysburg/Harrisburg), New York (Hastings-on-Hudson, Elmsford, Yonkers, Queens & Long Island) and S. Cal. (Los Angeles & Long Beach). WRITER: Andrew Kevin Walker. ADDITIONAL CAST: Anthony Heald plays the rich woman’s lawyer while James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare and Chris Bauer appear as smut pervs. GRADE: B
8MM probably only got greenlit due to the success of Se7en. Like Se7en, 8MM explores the existence of people who are simply pure evil while the main character wants to know why they are like this. 8MM doesn't provide many answers but it also isn't thematically complex. It follows a standard whodunit plot. While Nicolas Cage gives a solid performance, there are times where he takes us out of the story with his signature freak outs. Joel Schumacher manages to create a gritty tone but he has a rather bland style. Regardless of its flaws, 8MM is still a decent movie. It prefers plot over exploitation and story over violence. For those reasons, I recommend it.