Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) is a private investigator who is hired by a widow called Mrs. Christian (Myra Carter) to see if a roll of 8mm film that has been found in her recently deceased husbands belongings contains footage that is authentic or not. The footage shows a teenage girl been raped and murdered by a man in a mask. Tom watches the film first to get an idea of what’s on it as is stunned by what he sees. He travels to L.A to see if he can find someone who can assist him in tracking down more information.
Upon reaching L.A, Tom visits a porn store to find someone who may know where snuff films are made. There he meets a shop worker called Max California (Joaquin Phoenix). Max thinks Tom is messing him about at first, but then finds that it’s not a joke. Max tells Tom that he may know a place where they can find movies like the one Tom has. They go to an underground porn market where there is some seriously questionable shit. However it doesn’t bring them any closer to their goal. Upon looking at the film again, Tom notices the masked man has a symbol on his hand. He tracks this symbol down to a porn distributor Dino Velvet (Peter Stormare) and another man called Eddie Poole (James Gandolfini), who may know more than they are letting on.
The deeper Tom goes into the depraved world of underground porn, the more he finds out how far humankind will go for the ultimate sexual thrill. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en), this is one seriously dark film. Probably the closest Hollywood has come to a European style sexual thriller. I did read that the original script had a much darker ending, which had Tom Welles kill himself. The film is bleak enough without a fucking depressing ending like that.
I must say though that I did like this film. It flows along brilliantly and it has a kick ass ending, better than the bleak as fuck one I mentioned above. This was a time when Nicolas Cage was actually on top form and not the money grabbing whore he’s become now. The supporting cast is great, including a role for the go to slimeball of choice Anthony Heald. It’s definitely worth a watch and not as horrible as A Serbian Film.