Thursday, August 19, 2004


this rather grisly little joel schumacher thriller/mystery thing came out about 7 years ago from memory, just as nick cage was riding a wave of action/drama-film success after his oscar for 'leaving las vegas'. 8mm wasn't exactly a box-office smash, & the critics reacted coolly at the time, dubbing it (again from memory) as almost TOO dark, TOO nasty.

but it's the dark shit in this film i love. no doubt it's an average film, completely conventional in spite of its snuffish subject-matter. but the lighting in some scenes is just beautiful. where hollywood directors tend to bathe 'family scenes' in a semi-bright, vapid glow, all the family scenes in 8mm are dark, brooding, enveloped in an x-files-inspired-tightly-clustered-pine-trees-theme that's straight outta maine. it also helps that cage's wife, played by someone (can anyone help?!), pulls one of the better performances in the picture (behind wuckin phoenix's hypo porn-store clerk & the guy who plays the canniving attorney). she is a quietly controlled & semi-aggressively concerned wife to her roaming P.I. husband. & she does a good job trying to inject some life into her scenes with cage, who's remarkably flat through the majority of the film. schumacher (or whoever wrote the picture) subtly manages to establish within about 5 minutes just how in love the young couple are. they just look at each other & say 'i love you'. it's probably cage's best moment in the film.

HAVING SAID THAT, what he does do extremely well in the end is bring off the 'man-on-a-mission' 'anti-snuff-crusader' character. having seen his investigative friend, max california (wuckin phoenix) meet a premature death, he suddenly becomes a nicely aggressive man. when he eventually gets to lay the boots into the villains, when he stealthily sneaks a knife into the abdomens of various enemies, you WANT him to. he's the master of the aggressive, vengeful grimace. the face of someone who can't quite believe he's actually enacting vengeance.

which is the key to cage's character - he's an everyday blue-collar fella who can't believe what he's seeing, who can't believe the world he's investigating, but who oddly WANTS to discover WHY this kind of world exists. in the words of tobey maguire's peter parker, he's both 'excited and terrified' by this lascivious world of porn & violence. thus his gunpoint debate with the really evil bespectacled attorney 'longdale' (probably the best scene in the film) becomes both a revelation & a disappointment for him. the dead industrial czar (longdale's boss) had the snuff film made, had the girl killed on camera, 'because he could', says longdale. 'were you expecting a different answer?', he asks a baffled cage.

while this is an interesting & ambivalent twist in 8mm's tale, it's oddly disappointing & unnecessary that the film is drawn out such that cage eventually tracks down & battles one-on-one with 'machine', the masked super-bad-guy who killed the snuff film girl in the first place. it's a vindicating end for cage's character - 'machine' admits that he actually enjoys what he does. he's not in it for the money, not in it for the power thing - he finds the whole thing pleasurable. symbollically killing him in a graveyard, we ourselves feel a sordid pleasure that this white trash example of 'living death' incarnate is dead. but it brings things to a very good vs. evil cliched end.

full credit to schumacher tho for making a solid generic P.I./dark detective film. i've heard around the traps that there's a lot of cynicism surrounding schumacher as a director. i'm unsure why - did he direct something really shit? can anyone help? one thing's for damn sure - he really failed to bring cage into line in this picture. nicholas is all over the shop.

in summary, it's worth a watch. rather a tense & well-lit mystery. nothing special tho.


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