A second look reveals some exit-wound-size holes in the plot, but there's nothing second-rate about the performances or the pacing of this serial-killer whodunit written and directed by Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I, The ... more »Killing Fields). Andy Garcia plays a cop whose failed marriage and recent spell with the bottle has brought him upstate from L.A to live near his half-sister (Kathy Baker) and one-time partner (Lance Henriksen). But he has barely unpacked his bags when a routine homicide call takes him to a spectacular local dump. There, amid heaps of detective-movie typewriters and colorful bags of garbage, he kicks up a severed hand. This leads him to reopen an unsolved psycho-killer file--codename "Jennifer"--that in turn reopens some old sores in the department. In the noir tradition, Garcia falls hard for his key witness, who happens to be blind (Uma Thurman, playing against the luster Pulp Fiction would Monroe-ize two years later) and in one stroke puts her life, and his career, in exquisite jeopardy. The plot weaves in and out of logic, but the dialogue track keeps you leaning in for the details. Along with the taut and suggestive work by Garcia and Henriksen (as usual, all skull beneath the skin), Jennifer 8 boasts a giddy-to-behold gargoyle performance from John Malkovich as an internal affairs cop whose head cold only sharpens the resentment he feels listening to rogue cops insult his intelligence. --Lyall Bush« less
"Writer/Director Bruce Robinson, best known for his cult hit "Withnail & I", has crafted a creditable little thriller in "Jennifer 8". It gets all the technical elements right, features some fine work from its actors, and does its best to screw around with the genre. But it rarely adds up to anything more than the sum of its parts.One of the strengths of Robinson's script is the stylish and effective dialogue he gives to his police officers. Most of the best bits come from the mouth of Sergeant Ross, like when he tells his wife he can't stay for dinner because it's "Friday night at City Hall... I've got a chance to frighten the fat." He's talking about securing a confession from a suspect, but it hardly matters, doesn't it? "Where are the ladies?" asks Sergeant Berlin, before a party. "Putting on the warpaint," comes Ross' reply. My favourite line, and probably the film's most ostentatious, is this little nugget which falls from the mouth of a visiting FBI investigator: "You're confused... you don't know if Tuesdays come in twos or happen once a week." It's the kind of raw poetry that Quentin Tarantino specializes in (or at least has learned to crib from Elmore Leonard).Andy Garcia carries the movie on his shoulders. His John Berlin (quite the pregnant name, as the film was released three years to the month after The Wall came down; are John's walls ready to crumble too? Stay tuned...) is a rather complex man, burdened by a shady past that is slowly alluded to, but never fully explained ("I feel like I said sorry on every street in [Los Angeles]," is the closest he comes to an explanation). Berlin is a model of patience and intuition (although I didn't buy the one moment of inspiration that lead him to his key witness; it's a "movie moment" that takes away from the reality Robinson is trying to inject into the film), quiet and reserved for most of the film, but prone to fits of rage when pushed. It's almost like Garcia, fresh off of working with Al Pacino, was modeling his character on that actor's work as Michael Corleone in the first two "Godfather" films. That's high praise, indeed, but Garcia's work here deserves it.Uma Thurman plays Helena Robertson, "the worst witness [Berlin's] ever had," a blind music teacher who may be the only witness able to identify the man that killed 'Jennifer'. And what fates do "only witnesses" usually have in suspense films? They're the next victim, of course! Which gives Berlin a great excuse to stay close Helena, and fall in love with her. Thurman here really only has two jobs: to look adorable and play blind credibly. The first, of course, she does with ease. I've always thought of Thurman as kind of a female-version of Keanu Reeves: she's at her best when not saying much, and letting her physicality and obvious screen presence carry much of the load. Which she gets to do here. As for that second job, portraying Helena's blindness, Thurman achieves some semblance of credibility there. Affecting a dead-eyed look, you believe her as a blind girl, albeit one with startling mobility.Lance Henriksen does what Lance Henriksen does best: he makes a rugged, [angry], misanthropic and misogynistic cop, constantly stuck in fourth gear, come across as rather likable. In his hands, with that map of the world face and baritone voice, Sergeant Freddy Ross is almost endearing. He's a big fish in a small pond, the kind of small town man who would name his boat "Duke" and not think twice about vocally ogling the... of the local waitresses. He and Garcia have kind of an oil-and-water relationship, but Henriksen's over-the-top showiness meshes perfectly with Garcia's solemnity.The one way in which the film doesn't play fair with its audience is in listing John Malkovich's name in the opening credits, and then making us wait eighty-minutes before the man shows up. But when he does, that distinctive whisper of a voice is heard before the face appears, it's vintage Malk.He plays an FBI investigator named St. Anne, who locks horns with Berlin in several lengthy scenes. Watching Garcia match wits with Malk is a real treat, the latter man's cool and whimsical aura offering a perfect counterpoint to the former's repressed fire. In Malk's hands, St. Anne has seen it all, giving himself leeway to toy with Berlin, trying to catch him in verbal traps and constantly rolling his eyes. But, like Garcia, Malk is able to let his instrument loose, erupting in violent outbursts periodically, which show the character's true power. And in a silly bit of business, Malk, for some reason, chooses to play the latter half of his scenes with a rather comic stuffed nose.Being an avid fan of the serial killer genre, I was looking forward to finally seeing "Jennifer 8". It lived up to my expectations, mostly, but for some reason I just couldn't fully give my heart to it. I liked it well enough, but it never gave me the visceral thrill I was hoping for. I suspect the reason for this is that this kind of story has been done many times before, often with much more verve and wit and fun. Seen in the shadows of the heavyweights of its genre, "Jennifer 8" is a workmanlike effort, sure to give a modicum of thrills. I recommend it on an intellectual level, but have my doubts about its effectiveness on an emotional one."
SIMPLY AN ENTERTAINING PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER.
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film speaks for itself. Superb acting and well directed. A tense tightly scripted psychological thriller. Ex-LA cop Andy Garcia now living in a small town tries to solve a pair of local murders. His only hope is a blind woman who seems to be the key to the serial killer's activities. What is more she may be 'Jennifer Eight' the murderer's codeword for the next victim. This 2 hour film keeps you on the edge of your seat. Fantastic movie, entertaining not to dull although the ending could have been longer. The film finishes very quickly otherwise well worth watching."
First Of The Genre
Sam Jones | Enghien les Bains France | 04/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"True enough, movies about serial killers are just too many around, and the theme is simply overdone. Now, J8 has been shot in 1992, and if you make abstraction of all the dullest things done ever since, it IS a damn good movie.First, Garcia's character John Berlin is no body-built, trigger-happy superman. He's merely a lab-tech, a forensic-oriented cop who stumbles upon what he thinks is the work of a serial. No shots fired, no wild car chases. The whole story is very plausible : from the cars they drive (a regular unmarked brown Police pack Caprice,and an 10-year old, battered 380SEC Mercedes as Berlin's personal car), to the clothes they wear, or the guns they carry. No fancy suits (although Garcia's short coat is really cool), and no 5-pound cannons (plain, California police regular issue Beretta 92). Creative police work, brainstorming and trial by error. Sounds a lot like your next door homicide cop daily bread and butter. And last but not least, the movie is shot in rural California...(well, BC posing as...) But it could have been New England ! A definite must see for those who enjoy Puccini, foggy morning ambiance rather than loud noises, squealing tires and shotgun blasts."
Intelligent and Visually Gorgeous Effort
Vanessa J. Baca | 11/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As many of my fellow reviewers have noted in their reviews, this is a very understated, and underrated, thriller in the film noir tradition. Andy Garcia's character, to me, perfectly personified a police officer who'd had too many ugly years on the job, giving him a varnish of cynicism and brusqueness that translated into impatience with his new co-workers and surprising gentleness for his new star witness. Uma Thurman was terrific as a blind student who may or may not have something to add to the possible serial killer Garcia's character has discovered. Her personification of a blind woman - the way she didn't focus her eyes, her fumbling hands - were sensitively done and, to me anyway, perfect. The scenery and camerawork are beautiful and juxtapose wonderfully with the violence and chase scenes. However, am I the only reviewer who noticed that John Malkovich plays a dual role in this movie? He is the aggressive, sarcastic IA investigator who hammers Garcia's character, but he is ALSO the mentally challenged janitor. You know, the creepy one who is in the bathroom with Uma in that scene where she thinks she's alone, undresses and gets in the tub, completely in the dark (literally and figuratively.) For sheer creepiness, that scene alone gets a 5-star rating. The rest gets 4 stars, mainly due to a couple of plot holes that are never tied up at the end. Stellar performances from Garcia, Thurman, Malkovich and the rest of them."
Drummin' Joe | Granada Hills, CA United States | 05/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Where in the world are these negative comments coming from?!? This movie is insanely suspenseful and good. The atmospheric soundtrack is worth purchasing as well. The music and mood make this picture. You have to soak in the pace. The ending is great. All movies have to end, and sometimes they are disappointing, but this has a great twist. I saw it in the theaters and it was a shock. I immediately wanted to see this movie again the next showing.
The supporting characters are great...perfectly cast. They stand in their own right and never interfere with the stars of the movie. This movie isn't without its flaws, but it is very good. Don't watch it alone at night, especially when it is raining. A great movie watching with friends on a cold night.
Then there's Malkovich! This movie is my first witness to his masterful style and personality. He was great in In the Line of Fire and owns that type of character. Here, he plays such a stylistic FBI agent and you become drawn into his confidence...you don't hear a script with Malk, just his strong personality.