Jennifer 8 (Bruce Robinson, 1992)
I first saw Jennifer 8 twenty years ago, right after it had come out on video. I hadn’t watched it since, and pretty much all I remembered about it was “Uma Thurman nude! Yaaaaaaaaaay!” and then hitting the end credits and “body double! Boooooooooooo!” So I figured I’d give it another look and see if it held up after all these years. Surprisingly, it does, though it is certainly not without its flaws; while I was watching, I was also reminded that this was one of the first times when Andy Garcia, who was just beginning a decade of can’t-go-wrong flicks that lasted till (or through, depending on your POV) 2001’s The Unsaid, made an impression on me. It is not a movie without flaws, but it’s still some decent watchin’ that presages Blink, released two years later (with many of those same flaws).
Garcia (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead) plays John Berlin, an LA detective who, desperate to get out of the city, transfers to the sleepy town of Eureka, where he gets partnered with Freddy Ross (the ubiquitous Lance Henriksen) and immediately finds himself involved in a murder investigation that bears possible ties to a serial killer Berlin was investigating in LA. Problem is, he could never convince anyone there was an actual serial killer wandering around. Berlin meets Helena (Kill Bill‘s Uma Thurman) and becomes convinced she’s the guy’s next victim, while his new squadmates think he’s downright nuts…until a few of them start thinking that maybe there is a serial killer wandering around, and his name is John Berlin.
The drawbacks are simple and easily pointed out: the pacing is abysmal in places (this is an hour and a half long movie that takes place in two hours and four minutes), and the setup for the last twenty minutes or so has a few bits where the viewer has to, shall we say, stretch the bonds of credibility farther than they’re usually willing to go without snapping. (Without being spoily, I’ll just say “cheese and crackers, but the scene on the fire escape…”.) Balancing these drawbacks are a plethora of solid-to-incredible performances not only from the principal cast, but from some minor characters whose parts are elevated by jaw-dropping casting decisions (John Malkovich is basically a cameo; I’m amazed he took such a small part, but he does a wonderful job with it. Ditto Kathy Baker). Bob Gunton, Graham Beckel, Perry Lang, Kevin Conway, and a host of other “you know these folks, but you don’t know you know them” character actors give top-notch performances in roles that, had they had the meat they deserved, might have made the movie’s bloated running time well worth it and then some. It’s good, but it could have been great. ** ½
A bit o’ trailer.