8mm is director Joel Schumacher's investigation into the porn underworld. He undercuts any believable indictment of the S&M sex industry's moral depravity by championing vigilante violence (as he did in the white-anxiety flick Falling Down). The protagonist of sorts is detective Tom Welles (Cage), a family man sinking slowly into a pit of dehumanization, cruelty, and lust. Kinda like Seven, which was penned by the same screenwriter. The film is dark and disturbing at times, but also quite disheveled. Joaquin Phoenix turns in a commendable performance as Capote-reading porn-clerk Max California, streetwise tour guide to Tom's descent. Increasingly consumed by the worlds he's discovering, Cage can't convey his character's changes or muster the energy to make you care. Disrespectful traces of Arabic music seem placed to conjure a sinister tone, perhaps to evoke the lawless pederasty of Tangier decades ago. The sum endeavor comes off as a seamy and under-realized action flick, blandly self-reflexive considerations of filmic voyeurism notwithstanding. 8mm projects a red light. As in red-light district. As in stop, don't go.
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