8MM (1999) Review

“Devil’s changing you already.”

Ok so lets talk about 8MM. The film is directed by Joel Schumacher. Joel Schumacher of Batman and Robin fame. Upon going on Metacritic to see the reviews of this film I found it actually has less than Batman and Robin. Let that sink in, if the reviews are to be believed then this film is worse than the famous shitty Batman and Robin. But it’s much better, and also has Nicolas Cage.

Nicolas Cage and Joaquin Phoenix.

Nicolas Cage plays private investigator Tom Welles who is good at his job and with keeping his customer’s discretion. Tom is hired by an old wealthy woman whose husband has just passed away. In her late husband’s safe she found a film. And this is where Cage comes in. The tape seemingly shows a young girl being violently murdered (watching Cage’s reaction when watching conjures up feelings of genuine uneasiness and sort of hilarity). It is up to Cage’s Tom Welles to discover who the girl is and if she is actually dead. This starts Welles on a slippery slope into the world of creepy underground porn.

The late, awesome James Gandolfini.

Along the way Welles runs into a lot of weird, messed up characters. Joaquin Phoenix is a surprise I wasn’t expecting. He plays Max California, a porn store clerk trapped in this world. He may look a bit like scum, but he is out of place. He’s smart and resourceful and helps Welles a lot. He puts in a great performance. In fact everyone in this movie is probably turning in a better performance than they needed to. But it adds so much to the film. Another character is Eddie Poole played by the late James Gandolfini. Eddie is just detestable, he doesn’t have one redeeming feature. But he is still played with talent by James Gandolfini and it just makes it more satisfying when he gets his comeuppance.  Finally, playing porn baron Dino Velvet is Peter Stormare. Now we watched Fargo for the first time recently and it made me realise how amazing Peter Stormare is. He chews the scenery in every scene he’s in and he’s just so creepy to watch.

I like Joel Schumacher as a director, after all he made the brilliant Falling Down. And he doesn’t shoot any of this film in a nice light, he aims to shock and horrify and it works. He’s an often great director, if only Batman and Robin never happened and tarnished his reputation. Nicolas Cage also turns in a standout performance, and it’s easy to see his slow downward spiral into this dark world. But he isn’t an action hero, he’s just an ordinary guy. He finds it difficult to kill when given the option and has to ring up the dead girl’s mother and ask for her permission to kill and torture the murderers. It’s shocking, and original and reminds you that there are no nice characters in this world.

Peter Stormare and Nicolas Cage.

8MM is a revenge thriller in a similar vein to Payback. And like Payback it’s a dark, grim film. I loved it, but I can see why some consider it bad. It’s not a nice film, not pleasant in the slightest. Though the extreme negative reviews suggest that what it was going for was lost on a few people. Some actors are weaker than others but the main cast is a mixture a great and over the top. It also has some classic Cagey moments, which are never disappointing. It’s not for everyone, I’m not even sure I can recommend it. But if you have the stomach for it, give it a go. You might regret it, but it’s definitely an interesting ride.

Jack Bumby


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