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8MM: Snuff enough?

posted by Paul on 4/02/01

Sometimes movies can be bad in a good way - so ridiculous and over-the-top you can't help but enjoy them, blown away by their sheer awfulness. It's rare, however, that a movie will be so bad as to actually cause offense. As a culture, we experience offense on different levels and for a variety of reasons. Occasionally, a movie can be gratuitously violent and hard to stomach; racist and/or condescending; exploitative and lacking in any sort of merit. A combination of all those negatives. The bible bashers will hate most anything, even finding gripes with Mickey Mouse and his goof troop. Ignore them, for they know nothing about cinema. They just try to tell you what Jesus would like, when we all know he gave "Dogma" two thumbs up and cried at the end of "Titanic". I'm pretty sure Jesus wasn't happy that he was once portrayed by Willem Dafoe, and I'm certain that if he was around today, he'd make sure Joel Schumacher was never allowed to work again. Ever. In any capacity.

If there was a penance for cinematic sins, Schumacher's long confession would be followed by ten years of solid praying and the unflinching conclusion that his "soul" is booked for the fires of Hell. Here's a man who turned the "Batman" franchise into one gigantic gay party, killing the movie's artistic chances at birth. The only good movies he's made are the intense "Falling Down" and the intensely Brat Pack "St Elmo's Fire". Those are the goodies, but "Flawless" was anything but, and the worst movie he'll ever make was...


I think I should point out that I'm not easily offended. I watched and enjoyed "Howard The Duck", "Mommy Dearest" AND "Game of Death". Fair to say they're not going to be adorning any self-respecting movie purist's cabinet. But then, my taste is generally off-the-wall and reasonably diverse.

To say this movie is bad is shortchanging that word. It's repulsive, overblown, insulting and condescending. A defecation from the bowels of cinematic scum.

The movie stars Nicholas Cage as Detective Tom Welles. A simple family man with a romantic outlook on the world, Welles is assigned to the case of a missing girl. The girl was featured in a "snuff" movie, found by the widow of a tycoon. The widow is shocked and that her fishy-fingered old coot of a husband got his rocks off by watching girls get murdered on screen. To clear her conscience, she wants Welles to try to find the girl, and ascertain whether her realistic onscreen death was legitimate.

Dance with the devil and the devil don't change; the devil changes you.

Sounds enticing enough, and with a grimy opening act, the movie looks promising. A cross between "Hardcore" and the heavily stylized and often ripped off, "Seven". Indeed, the movie is penned by none other than "Seven" scribe and overall jolly guy..Andrew Kevin Walker.

Any pretensions to being a seamier "Seven" quickly dissipate as the movie descends into a mess of masochism and woefully butchered dialogue. Schumacher savaged Walker's artistic vision so much that this movie plays like "Batman goes porno". Naturally, Walker wanted his name removed, while Cage's screen presence is typically self-indulgent and grating. The guy can act, but he's too preoccupied with trying to be soulful that he drags the whole production down with him.

Not that it stood much chance. Once Schumacher signed the dotted line, the sleazy scent permeated the air. Not enjoyable perversion a la "Showgirls", just plain nastiness. Unnecessary smut for smut's sake and not in the least titillating. A movie that makes you feel so much worse about the world we live in. So negative and defeatist in its outlook that you want to claw it from its nihilist wrench. You get the point.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy all kinds of movies, even those that tell us that the world we inhabit is hellish. I'd just rather watch them without enduring Nicholas Cage and Joaquin Phoenix getting all pretentious and "meaningful".

STEVE MARTIN: Hi there. I'm comedy legend, Steve Martin, and since I can't get much work these days, I decided to make an appearance in your article.

Wow! Comedy Legend, Steve Martin!! How did YOU get here? Ah, nevermind. No need for silly questions at a time like this. Will you help me review "8MM". I think I'm slowly losing the will to live here.

STEVE: It would be an honor. I love your work.

What was your take on "8MM", then?

STEVE: When I heard they were making a movie called 8MM I thought it was the Danny De Vito biography.

Wouldn't that be called "The Dwarf and his ugly wife"?

STEVE: No, don't be silly.

Ok, I'll leave the jokes to you.

STEVE: Ok, so it stars Nicholas Cage. He won an Oscar for "Leaving Las Vegas". Last time I left Las Vegas, I had a hooker bill longer than your arm. Do you know that the hookers there are so..

Ah, Steve, you're going off-topic.

STEVE: I didn't think Nicholas Cage was particularly good in this. He's had one good role, and that's the role of a spoiled Coppola.

So, you're saying he only got to the top because of who he knew?

STEVE: You're very quick. You'll have to make space in your calendar for a new chat show.

I'm not a big fan of Cage myself. I've seen blind golfers with more range.

STEVE: That wasn't very funny. I appreciate the effort there.

I can do better. I was just trying to be cute.

STEVE: Any movie with a villian called Dino Velvet doesn't sound too inspiring.

Agreed. I'll just include a pic of him so the readers will know who we're talking about.

STEVE: He looks a lot like my last girlfriend.

I don't think he looks anything like Anne Heche, but I can see you're shooting for a punchline.

STEVE: For your information, my last girlfriend was Benicio Del Toro.

Ok, lay that punchline on me..

STEVE: I was going to say that Benicio Del Toro was in "Traffic", yet Schumacher couldn't direct traffic.

Should I fake laugh now or later?

STEVE: Give me a break.. You're not doing a very good job setting up the zingers.

James Gandolfini does solid work in this movie. An actual convincing "bad guy" who doesn't rely on a hokey name or terrible accent.

STEVE: Is it any surprise Tony Soprano impresses in this movie? He doesn't look like he'll be guesting on "Sesame Street" soon. Unless they're planning on wacking Big Bird, which has been a long time in coming, if you ask me.

That's hardly the point. I was just saying that in a movie of so many cariacatures and cartoon enemies, he actually shows a realistic intensity.

STEVE: If Schumacher was telling you to wear rubber nipples, you'd show realistic intensity. Plus, the guy's Italian. He's there to make Pizza or kill people, and they already made "Mystic Pizza".

I'm not even going to dignify that. What do you think of Nichola Cage's wife in the movie?

STEVE: I'm pretty certain even Russell Crowe hasn't tried hitting on her.

Why's that?

STEVE: She's in the wrong movie. She should have been in..."Elephant Woman".

I'm appalled. You're either losing your touch or deliberately sabotaging your career.

STEVE: I sabotaged my career in "Sgt Bilko". I'm just making light of other people's misfortune.

Fair enough. Well, we better wrap this up, because you're strangely lacking in wit today. What did you think of the masked villian, Machine?

STEVE: I think he needs to lose thirty pounds and get in touch with his inner child. I've met directors with less issues than him.

He reminds me a lot of some people on the internet.

STEVE: I can't be sure who or what that thing is, but I'd say it's shared a bed with Russell Crowe.

It's the closest thing I could find that resembled Machine. I searched around the net for about an hour like a douchebag looking for a picture of a fictitious gimp. I think I might need therapy.

STEVE: Eddie Murphy prowls the streets for gimps, if that's any comfort. By the way, Eddie's next movie is called "Trading Genitalia".

That was a very weak one-liner. I don't even think it makes sense. A lot like this movie we're trying to review.

STEVE: This movie made little sense as soon Nicholas Cage opened that mouth of his.

Yeah, and the ending seemed tacked on, to say the least. I think they were trying to make the point that Welles' soul had been stained and he needed to rekindle love to seek redemption. I'm not sure. I was busy looking for the eject button.

STEVE: This movie is like Hollywood lifestyles. You spend an hour looking for porn, then you realize you've just killed five people, and you should have made a go of it with your trophy wife. Incidentally, therapists now have a new name for the biggest cause of marital breakdown...

What's that?

STEVE: Russell Crowe.

Ok, that's it. I can't take any more one-liners about Russell Crowe. Thanks for stopping by. If you ever want to appear in another one of my articles, work on your material.

All in all, "8MM" is an atrocious movie. To waste time in reviewing it theme by theme and scene by scene is to deny me of twenty minutes ridding my head and shoulders of bothersome dandruff. I can sum up the movie's themes in two words.

Excess and sex.

There are some well-intentioned stabs at psychology, but Schumacher's behind the camera, so the result is homosexual and nonsensical. It can be watched, it does have flashes of entertainment, but the whole is wrapped up in an unseemly ball of grimness. Few will enjoy this grimness, for it borders on blandness, and characters with names like Max California can't rescue it from the void. "Fight Club" focused on nihilism, and had gusto. This focuses on depravity and is lacking in anything of significant value. Flat, lifeless and repugnant, few will want to re-live this one after the first viewing.

Four fingers down.


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