Which number will you be?
Released somewhat quietly in 1992, Jennifer 8 is a befuddled picture with a cast that was capable of so much more. Directed by unknown Bruce Robinson, the film casts Andy Garcia (Hoodlum, The Godfather III, The Untouchables) as John Berlin. Berlin is a cop, recently from Los Angeles, returned to a small town where friend Freddy Ross (Lance Henricksen—Aliens, Scream 3, TVs "Millennium") has become a liked and valuable member of the police force.
A body discovery at a local dump leads to a wider investigation after discovering an oddly mutilated human hand. Berlin learns of an old case, unsolved, involving the serial murder and pathological dismemberment of certain body parts of the victims. Oddities about the hand confuse him until he determines some odd scars and wear on the hand mean it must be the hand of a blind person.
This leads to Uma Thurman's (Pulp Fiction, Gattaca, Dangerous Liasons) character, Helena Robertson. Helena is blind, and turns out to be the former roommate/friend of one of the serial victims. In the course of their investigation, Berlin begins to develop a romantic attachment to Helena. Meanwhile, the police are convinced she can be of no help as a witness, and things begin to get more and more tangled from there. Throw in the romantic angle, a police department unwilling to pursue the case, and finally an Internal Affairs investigation after Ross and Berlin encounter deadly difficulty during a portion of their investigation.
The result is Jennifer 8, a disjointed, confusing, dark, and slow film that wastes a good assemblage of acting talent.
As a general rule of thumb, I like the leading and major supporting actors in Jennifer 8. Andy Garcia has turned in excellent work previously, as have Lance Henricksen and Uma Thurman. John Malkovich (Rounders, Con Air, Dangerous Liasons) has a turn as the IA investigator, appearing late in the film for just a few scenes. These are actors who are talented and watchable.
Unfortunately, director Robinson badly fumbles their presence. The film's story never finds a sense of identity. First it's a straightforward police thriller, hunting for a serial killer. Could be a good flick. But wait, now it's a police thriller with political overtones as department conflicts interfere with the investigation. Okay, still good. Wait, now we're going to throw in a blind Uma Thurman an a romance angle, then we're going to off one of the leads and bring in John Malkovich to blame the offing on the other one. Now I'm not sure what we're left with, but whatever it is, it lacks a sense of direction.
I never enjoy having to be this negative about a disc, or a film. But as a reviewer, I'm required to screen discs and report on them. Some may find the film enjoyable, but the lackluster box office and the general lack of a fan base seem to indicate to me Jennifer 8 is, at best, a small catalog offering. A forgettable film, if you will. In a wonderful world, all films would be enjoyable and entertaining. In our world, however, some aren't. I think Jennifer 8 is one of those films.
How is the disc, now that I've taken several paragraphs to explain why I don't like the movie? Well, it's a Paramount disc, and all the things that usually come with the studio's offerings are present here.
A solid anamorphic transfer; video is crisp and clear. Edges are natural, colors solid, the picture free of defects or degradations. The film itself, however, is shot very, very darkly; so this results in, oddly enough, a dark picture. A good anamorphic transfer of an overly dark film. The audio is equally enjoyable; excellent use is made of the surrounds, directional effects are used frequently in the sound field, dialogue is always forward and understandable; a great 5.1 audio transfer.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
But, as a Paramount disc, this means that's it. The disc includes text biographical material on cast and crew, the theatrical trailer, and that's about it. Nothing that might help explain some of the directorial and story choices that were made in Jennifer 8. No outtakes, commentaries, deleted scenes, alternate endings, nada, zip, nothing. As always, a real shame to see a barebones disc being trotted out.
As for the film itself, well, let's just move on.
Confusing film, great cast not given enough of a stage to really shine, solid but uninspired disc effort. That sums up Jennifer 8 as succinctly as I can manage.
The court issues the standard complaints about barebones discs, but, also standard, is happy the barebones are at least anamorphic and mixed for 5.1 sound.
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