Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker
Composer: Mychael Danna
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, Anthony Heald, Chris Bauer, Catherine Keener, Myra Carter, Amy Morton, Jenny Powell, Ann Gee Byrd, Norman Reedus, Torsten Voges
More info: IMDb
Tagline: If you dance with the devil, the devil don't change,the devil changes you!
Plot: Private investigator Tom Welles is hired by the recently widowed Mrs. Christian who has found a startling pornographic film in her late husband's possessions. In the film a teenage girl is apparently killed and Welles is pretty sure it's a genuine snuff film. He takes the case, first going through records of runaways finally identifying the girl and learning that she may have run off to California. There he enters the seedy underworld of pornography with the help of Max California, a porn store clerk. His principal clue is the masked man who killed the girl as he has a unique tattoo on his hand. He soon finds the culprits but there is little satisfaction in resolving the mystery.
My rating: 7/10
Will I watch it again? Maybe.
Nicolas Cage is one of the most hit and miss (mostly miss) A-list actors out there; not so much with his performances as with the films he chooses. And while he doesn't have a wide range of emotion, he does have frazzled down pat. What he has trouble with is being horrified. The scene where he watches the snuff film is downright laughable through his reaction. It really looks like he's trying to ape George C. Scott in a similar scene from HARDCORE (1979), which can be funny when taken out of context but at least Scott was an actor who could really sell it. Anyway, enough about that shit. Peter Stormare as the sleazy porn director, Dino Velvet, stole the show. Hilarious. Then you add good performances by folks like Phoenix, Gandolfini, and so on, it ends up being a worthwhile watch. I dug it. The two hour running time feels a bit much but it's worth sticking through. One thing that struck me was Mychael Dann's unorthodox score. It had a Middle Eastern flare which is at odds with a movie that has nothing to do with that region or people. At first it was just weird, but as the film progressed I got to really like it. I don't know whose decision it was to pursue that course but I'd like to have a beer with them and talk about it. Ultimately, it's the length that did it in for me. There was a little drag here and there but the performances and score are great reasons to check it out.