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Jennifer Eight
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jack Sommersby

"A Suspenseful, Superb Thriller"
4 stars

Though it had a fairly good ad campaign, it didn't open particularly well on opening weekend, but over the years it's picked up a very favorable following.

In his first starring role in a major motion picture, Andy Garcia is outstanding as John Berlin, a former Los Angeles police officer recently relocated to the tranquil Northern California town of Eureka who finds himself on the trail of a sadistic serial killer in the knockout thriller Jennifer Eight. Berlin's a wreck of a man, bitter and alcoholic, still struggling to come to terms with a divorce from the year before and battling the bottle one day at a time. At the urging of his former-sergeant/brother-in-law who's now the ranking detective there, he's moved to Eureka to get away from big-city crime, and having gotten a Forensics degree he wants to settle into a low-stress existence in this sleepy community processing evidence; in the beautifully scored opening-credits sequence, we see him driving through the Redwood Forest area and arriving at his rustic farmhouse to begin this new life. But he's in town no less than a day when a severed female hand is discovered in the local trash dump (echoes of the severed human ear in David Lynch's Blue Velvet), and while the majority of the cops thinks it's illegally-disposed-of hospital debris, Berlin, after learning of a decapitated, handless woman's torso found in the county two years prior (the case codenamed "Jennifer"), is convinced it's part of a homicide and the handiwork of the same killer. Through extraordinary deductive skills, Berlin determines the hand is that of a blind woman, and combing missing-person reports of blind women in the state he comes up with six possible related cases, much to the chagrin of the men in the department who think he's pursuing a killer who doesn't exist. Yet with dogged determination Berlin puts the clues together, and though a few logic loopholes abound the movie works as an intelligent police procedural with oodles of atmosphere and suspense. What a surprise coming from the British writer/director Bruce Robinson, whose previous efforts, Withnail & I (irritating) and How to Get Ahead in Advertising (bombastic), strove too uncouthly for ultra-eccentricity. Here, working with the renowned cinematographer Conrad L. Hall, Robinson gives Jennifer Eight a luxurious visual life, and, with the acute editor Conrad Buff's invaluable help, considerable narrative propulsion. The supporting actors (including John Malkovich in a scene-stealing turn as an FBI agent) are first-rate, the dialogue uncommonly good ("You don't know if Tuesdays come in twos or happening once a week"), and the whodunit angle (with both visual and aural clues) cannily rendered. Slightly marred by overlength and an unconvincing romantic subplot, the movie is tension-filled, eerily-enveloping stuff from start to finish. One of 1992's ten-best.

The DVD offers up adequate video and audio, but there are no special features, which is a real shame because an audio commentary by Robinson would be very welcome.

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originally posted: 07/26/13 22:31:15
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell good serial killer movie nice atmosphere 4 stars
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  06-Nov-1992 (R)

  N/A (15)

  01-Apr-1993 (M)

Directed by
  Bruce Robinson

Written by
  Bruce Robinson

  Andy Garcia
  Lance Henriksen
  Uma Thurman
  John Malkovich
  Kathy Baker

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