Jennifer Eight [1992]

A second look reveals some exit-wound-size holes in the plot, but there's nothing second-rate about the performances or the pacing of this serial-killer whodunit written and directed by Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I, The Killing Fields). Andy Garcia plays a cop whose failed marriage and recent spell with the bottle has brought him upstate from L.A to live near his half-sister (Kathy Baker) and one-time partner (Lance Henriksen). But he has barely unpacked his bags when a routine homicide call takes him to a spectacular local dump. There, amid heaps of detective-movie typewriters and colorful bags of garbage, he kicks up a severed hand. This leads him to reopen an unsolved psycho-killer file--codename "Jennifer"--that in turn reopens some old sores in the department. In the noir tradition, Garcia falls hard for his key witness, who happens to be blind (Uma Thurman, playing against the luster Pulp Fiction would Monroe-ize two years later) and in one stroke puts her life, and his career, in exquisite jeopardy. The plot weaves in and out of logic, but the dialogue track keeps you leaning in for the details. Along with the taut and suggestive work by Garcia and Henriksen (as usual, all skull beneath the skin), Jennifer 8 boasts a giddy-to-behold gargoyle performance from John Malkovich as an internal affairs cop whose head cold only sharpens the resentment he feels listening to rogue cops insult his intelligence. --Lyall Bush

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