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Jennifer Eight Review

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Having moved to the country for a quiet life, city cop John Berlin (Garcia) has his dream shattered when he finds a severed hand in the local dump. He then decides that the owner was a victim of a serial killer on the loose, but the locals aren't so convinced.

★★★★★

Obsessional big city cop Andy Garcia migrates to a small precipitation-drenched Northern California town after flaming out in the L.A. fast lane.

Barely has he parked his Mercedes outside the decrepit country shack he oddly decides to call home — signalling his own status as gutted emotional shell — than he finds a severed hand in the local garbage dump and is convinced that he has uncovered the latest victim of a serial killer who targets blind women. Garcia's theory, however, runs smack into a shrill chorus of disbelieving voices, including his partner and brother-in-law (Henriksen), all snickering at his notion that one hand and one dead guide dog does a serial killer make.

A sombre character-oriented suspense mystery, this is notable both for its stunningly atmospheric cinematography and the dark psychological undercurrents lurking beneath the surface of its dual plot strands — Garcia's bulldog investigative crusade that rubs the resentful small town career boys the wrong way, and the muted love story that develops between his tormented 'tec and Helena (Thurman), the fragile blind girl who is his only witness.

There are, of course, occasional lapses into the tired conventions of a genre clearly showing its age, but they're solidly counterpunched by smart performances — including John Malkovich popping up halfway through to ham it up as a malicious Fed with a head cold — and Robinson's atypically intelligent approach.

And somehow, this manages to not seem exploitative despite its share of woman-in-peril chases around vertiginously murky hallways. The overtly sober mood and lingering pace gave US audiences the frights and probably accounted for the film bypassing UK cinema screens, but this is a richly satisfying experience.

With a predictable central story, what might have been a distinctly average film is greatly improved with stellar performances from Garcia, Thurman and, in particular, Malkovich as well as some incredible cinematography that keeps the atmosphere tense.

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