Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

From the writer of Se7en comes another excavation into the potholes of the human psyche. It is the story of Tom Welles' search for Mary Anne Matthews - a missing person's case. She appears on an eight millimetre film, found amongst a dead industrialist's effects, apparently being murdered by a man in a black leather mask.

The millionaire's widow hires Welles (Nicolas Cage), a private eye, to discover whether the film is genuine. The early section is the best. Cage creates a concerned, serious man in Welles, who has a demanding marriage to a difficult wife (Catherine Keener) and a baby daughter, whom he adores. His humanity has a quiet strength, wincing when watching the film, mindful of Mary Anne's mother's feelings, respecting the professional commitment to his client.

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Search for the truth of what happened to a mixed-up teenager, who fought with her mother, hated her stepfather, was dumped by her highschool boyfriend and ended up on the streets of Hollywood, looking for fame, is well handled. Once Welles arrives in LA and begins his investigation into perverts and voyeurs, the movie loses its direction and becomes simplistic, ugly, violent and unconvincing. The plot produces one of those surprise twists that reinforces its decline into gratuitous cliché.

When Welles is told by the boy behind the counter in a sleazy sex shop (Joaquin Phoenix), "Dance with the Devil, the Devil doesn't change - the Devil changes you," there are no prizes for guessing what's in store for him. The director, Joel Schumacher (Batman & Robin, Flatliners) does not have the imaginative flair of David Fincher (Seven, The Game). As he descends into hell, you go too, accompanied by the nastiest human beings you never want to meet.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Nic Cage is a PI, hired to find out whether a 'snuff film' is genuine.
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Director: Joel Schumacher

Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker

Starring: Nicholas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, Anthony Heald, Christopher Bauer, Catherine Keener

Year: 1999

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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