More than "8MM" of Action with Nicolas Cage


Nicholas Cage always seems to have about a half dozen films released every year, with very few ever deserving a second look.  But for every 5 five cheesy action flicks he does, he’ll show us he can still act by doing a small engaging character drama.  The nephew of famed Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, Cage delivered arguably his best performance in Leaving Las Vegas.  A role that earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1996. 

8MM was released in 1999 and has been a sort of lost gem that does deserve a second look.  A talented supporting cast of Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini & Katherine Keener kicks this film up a few notches.  Although the plot and subject matter might turn a few people off.  8MM refers to an old movie reel that is found in the safe of a recently deceased wealthy industrialist.  It’s a snuff film, where a person is killed on film after being possibly raped or tortured.  The elderly widow calls on Cage’s character of Tom to investigate the authenticity of the film.  Tom is a suburban family man with a wife (Keener) and a baby daughter.  He works as a private investigator and after viewing the disturbing film, decides to take the job.  Cage usually inhabits these crazy, eccentric characters, but with Tom, he grounds him with quiet professional dignity.  As he and a young adult bookstore employee Max California (Phoenix) dig deeper into the world of underground pornography and fetishism Tom will risk going down a dark path that some people never return.  There is a great quote from Max that goes “There are some things that you see, and you can't unsee them. Know what I mean?”

Tom and Max start investigating porn producer Eddie Poole (Gandolfini) and find that he is connected to the making of the snuff film.  Tom then visits the murdered girls mother and this is where the film really gets a lot of its heart.  The girl was Mary Ann Matthews; a real person and not just some statistic.  She is not a forgotten runaway, but a lost girl who drifted too far away from the people who loved her.  Tom wants to find the people responsible more for the girl’s mother, than for the job he is being paid for.  I won’t get into the ending or any spoilers, but it could be looked at a few different ways.  The plot and story in general needs to be taken as entertainment only.  It tries to be real and authentic, but it does take place in a “movie world” and not the “real world”.  If any of that makes sense.  As I write this Nic Cage is on a streak of terrible action movies so he is due for a winner and soon.

8MM was directed by Joel Schumacher, most known for a bunch of 90s action movies like Batman & Robin, A Time to Kill and The Client.  A straight to DVD sequel was released in 2005 and only uses the original title to con people into renting a shitty movie.