1999; Rated R; 123 Minutes
Nicholas Cage: Tom Welles
Joaquin Phoenix: Max California
James Gandolfini: Eddie Poole
Peter Stormare: Dino Velvet
Anthony Heald: Longdale
Produced by Joseph
M. Caracciolo, Judy Hofflund, Jeff Levine, Gavin Palone
and Joel Schumacher; Directed by Joel Schumacher;
Screenwritten by Andrew Kevin Walker
by DAVID KEYES
three rules in life: One, there's always a victim; two,
don't be it; and three... I forgot what three is."
through the disturbing images displayed in "8MM," I wondered
how it was possible for the MPAA to slap the film with a
measly "R" rating, instead of what it clearly deserved,
the notorious "NC-17." The film, often unpleasant to watch,
centers on events that are putrid, disgusting, immoral,
nasty, ruthless, and worst of all, barbaric. Yet somehow,
all of these qualities do not distract us from feeling horrified
in a creditable way. The director wants us to be aghast
by the perceptions without being completely grossed out,
and he accomplishes the task by peering into the disgusting
images without always going too far. One might admit that
the harsh situations get a little out of hand sometimes,
but what did you expect? After all, this is underground
porn: did you expect something tasteful?
Welles, played by Nicholas Cage, is a private investigator
who is hired by an old widow to investigate a snuff film
she found in her husband's safe. He is asked to find out
if the girl in the film is still alive, or if the entire
porn is merely a fake. When he views it, he sees a young
woman who is maliciously murdered by a man in a leather
mask, and is so horrified at what he sees he is stunned.
With what is shown of that snuff film on screen, we are
just as horrified.
ongoing pursuit for answers takes him away from his wife
and child, who are seen mostly on screen via telephone conversations
with Tom. Using the evidence he finds from the girl's mother,
he winds up in LA to explore for himself the deep dark pleasures
of underground porn.
Welles finds his ticket into the industry from a porn retailer
named Max (Joaquin Phoenix), whose other links with other
famous pornographic businessmen eventually get Tom into
what he so desperately wants. Arriving there, the movie
demonstrates even more bitterly what that one snuff film
in particular could not: the sexual games, the taunting,
the pain, the ruthless torture, and so on. Most of these
events are shown in the film with great detail, including
one absolutely repugnant scene in which a man is tortured
with plastic male anatomy. And if you think that's bad,
wait until they start using sharper objects.
performances sustained in the film help carry out our tolerance
for the subject matter. Peter Stormare, who plays the porn
director, is ruthless in nearly every respect, and puts
his role as the quiet but nasty killer in "Fargo" to shame.
Joaquin Phoenix is equally effective, using dialogue that
must have been written strictly for him, and Nicholas Cage
handles what he sees in ways that we might handle it if
we were in the same situations. The writer portrays him
as a loving, respectful human being, brought up by decent
morals, who is suddenly thrown into a world that he knows
nothing about, and is completely disgusted by it.
script was written by Andrew Kevin Walker, who also wrote
the masterpiece "Seven," about a brutal series of murders
involving the seven deadly sins. Like that movie, there's
a constant urge to reject the film for its cruel and sickening
aspects. But like "Seven," the treatment of the situations
is more nerve-wrecking than sickening, therefore making
the rejection a temptation I can resist. Undoubtedly, the
film will turn off audience members, but it could be worse.
There were occasions when people got up and left the film
about halfway through, probably because they could no longer
stand the grotesque images. To truly rid yourself of all
the sickening torture, however, the ending needs to be seen,
that way the situations are resolved, as well as your feelings.
To leave the theater halfway through would be like putting
pause on a childbirth, just because you cannot stand the
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.