I do not go to films to be lectured, and I certainly don't need to belectured by the likes of Joel Schumacher, who directed the philosophical masterpiece "Batman & Robin." Hell, I should be lecturing him.
Nevertheless, Schumacher has taken Andrew Kevin ("Seven") Walker's script and turned it into a simpering treatise on the proper etiquette for dealing with evil. In this case, the evil has to do with the production of a snuff film. Private investigator Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) is hired by a wealthy widow, Mrs. Christian (Myra Carter), to find out whether the girl in the film was actually murdered or if it's a fake. She's found the film among her husband's possessions and if it's real, it invalidates their relationship in some ways. The woman's name makes that particular snippet of foreshadowing approximately as subtle as having the space shuttle fall on your house.
Every time Welles comes home to his wife (Catherine Keener) and baby girl, he gets nagged about smoking or drinking or failure to genuflect or something. Not surprisingly, the seedy world of underground pornography draws him like Delta Burke to a Sara Lee outlet. He meets Max (Joaquin Phoenix), and soon closes in on an answer about the snuff film, involving a couple of filmmakers (James Gandolfini, Peter Stormore) and a snuff film legend called Machine (Chris Bauer).
The dialogue in this film is reminiscent of Al Gore with a hard-on: stiff. It gets even stiffer when the film nears its climax, and Schumacher concludes that moviegoers might not understand his profound intellectual ejaculation unless he aims it right at their heads. Keep an eye on Machine; it's at moments when humans are least prone to profundity that such characters decide to say something incisive. In the future Schumacher might want to consider a more subtle approach, such as tattooing his moral message on our foreheads.
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