28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2000
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.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2001
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.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2005
The first thought that springs to mind is 'UNDERRATED.' Andy Garcia plays a cop who has recently relocated. He stumbles onto a case that is only a small part of a much bigger picture. What evidence is available leads him to an institution for the blind. He then meets Uma Thurman. Uma is able to give him some information, but obviously, her blindness limits what evidence she can offer. But she offers some interesting bits of information that she can. (What the different cars sounded like....knowing that the killer knew how blind people shake hands....etc) Eventually, Garcia and Thurman strike up a more friendly relationship, and there are some really beautiful scenes. (Like when Garcia takes her on the boat and she is enjoying the sensation of the water falling on her.) I don't want to say too much and possibly ruin the movie for you, but suspense gradually builds, and Andy eventually finds himself facing dangerous accusations, and of course Uma finds herself in danger as well. While the pace of this movie may seem on the slower side, it is well done. (Sometimes this is done so we get a chance to know the characters.) Without ruining the ending, there is an unusally frightening moment towards the end where Uma has to defend herself, and her blindness differentiates this climactic moment from other movies. This movie was made in 92, but it has charm from the 70s and 80s. The scenery is beautiful; the background music fits into the story (rather than being a commercial for new tapes/cds on the market). For some reason, a lot of people who made movies in the 90s decided that for a movie to work, there have to be an absurd amount of special effects; someone has to get beaten up or killed every 5 minutes; there has to be a lot of cursing; and humor only works on a slapstick level. Interestingly, this movie currently only has a few reviews, and some of them are on the lower side. To all of you reading this, sometimes a great deal of value is found in the more obscure things. WARNING: DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED BECAUSE THIS MOVIE ONLY HAS A FEW REVIEWS WITH SOME OF THEM NEGATIVE. YOU'LL MISS OUT ON A GREAT SUSPENSEFUL STORY THAT HAS A LOT OF BEAUTY.
24 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2002
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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2005
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.
Great film, great soundtrack!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2012
Back in the days of VHS I was working in video distribution. This was introduced to hit the rental market and, when I receive my promo kit, I took it home and popped it into the old VCR. I liked it enough but didn't think much about it afterward. It''s resurfaced on Netflix with better user reviews than I would have imagined, so I figured to give it another shot. Glad I did.
Here's the scoop. Andy Garcia was a detective in L.A. His life unraveled after his girlfriend bailed on him so he moved to a small town up north (Oregon?) to get his life back on track. He latches onto a case that suggests he might be looking at a serial killer targeting blind women. When he visits an institution that assists blind women, to interview a possible witness (Uma Thurman), he begins to get involved with her and the case takes some turns that get him into serious trouble and have his co-workers doubting his sanity.
This is not what you would consider great art as far as film making is concerned but it is good craft. The script navigates the story very evenhandedly and the directing is very decent. I thought there was good use of location and weather. At times it was raining, other times snowing and other times broodingly overcast. The locations were varied but no concrete and steel here. These were mostly remote locations that gave a sense of things being bleak. The blind card was used well. The way Thurman remembered small things, or was able to point out seemingly minor details, added up nicely and was evenly spaced so it didn't telegraph the ending. It was good seeing Uma Thurman in an early role. She already had some decent films under her belt but wasn't quite a household name. I don't dislike Andy Garcia but I won't ever be the first in line to see his next movie. He's Okay here. Not bad but not great. The supporting actors do a good job. Lance Hendrickson, as his partner, is always likable. Graham Beckel is usually cast as a slimeball and that's where he's at here.
All the production values are good so the viewer isn't distracted. Some could argue the ending but I liked it. It was a quick way to pull a lot of strings together. No fuss. No Muss. I like this type of movie. Mystery thrillers are always good fodder for film. Though not the best of its ilk it's more than watchable.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 1999
Writer-director Bruce Robinson's serial killer thriller JENNIFER 8 is a mesmerizing and extremely satisfying character-driven film that elicits its scares through stunning atmospheric detail, tact, patience, and, most of all, intelligence. The storyline itself is far from original, yet Robinson develops his material extraordinarily well. The overall plot schema is full of delicious labyrinth paths, laying out clues for us very dexterously, while, at the same time, involving us with the characters and the eerie snowbound setting (Eureka, CA) they inhabit. Cinematographer Conrad L. Hall does a superlative job of giving JENNIFER 8 a palpable doomsday texture, with blacker-than-black darkness, shadows, rainfall, and flashlight-penetrated interiors that raises considerable goosebumps through controlled understatement. There are a couple of 'Boo!' moments engineered to jolt you out of your seat, but the filmmakers here put most of their concentration in building UP TO the actual moments of visceral action. It's a completely original thriller, where the search for the culprit isn't the only thing of interest; there are 3-dimensional characters and ingenious plot turns drawing us in, blending the horrific elements in logically, where the disturbing underlying content floors us much more effectively, because we're involved in everything that's going on, instead of counting the minutes until the next body is discovered or the next body is found. There's very little violence in JENNIFER 8, and it doesn't need it. Andy Garcia is nothing short of magnificent in his first starring role, blending appeal, rage and pathos into a complex character that you can't take your eyes off of.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2011
I have had a "strange" relationship with this movie; simultaneously drawn to it and repelled by it. I rented it years ago. And after an initial viewing, I dismissed it as a formulaic thriller. But more recently I came across an old VHS copy, and have watched it couple of times.
I think the attraction may be Uma Thurman. And the fact that she plays a blind person increases her attraction - i.e. her vulnerability.
The repellent aspect of the movie: may be that it is a "cop" movie. Is it a "cop" movie? And the "cop" gets the girl too.
I read some of the other reviews. And I agree there are some "holes" in the plot, or it gets a bit convoluted at places.
First, what bugs me is - what is the connection between the blind girl "Amber", whom we never meet, the most recent victim, and this serial killer cop? She apparently left the "institute" with him. Didn't she? And how come no one else saw them together?
Second - when Berlin (Andy Garcia) searches the VW van at the beginning of the movie and finds a small piece of plastic, part of an inhaler, and then later in the film this helps Berlin make a connection between the killer and the Frisco area, Oakland more precise. Who was the woman, who was driving the van?
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2006
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.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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