Jennifer 8: Bruce Robinson’s Psychological-Sexual Thriller, Starring Andy Garcia and Uma Thurman

Sergeant John Berlin, played by Andy Garcia in the new psychological-sexual thriller Jennifer 8, is also a dreamer, albeit of a different kind. A disenchanted, burnt-out L.A. cop, he joins the police force of a small Northern California town, where he devotes all his energies to finding a serial killer who has just claimed his eighth victim and whose code name is Jennifer (thus the film’s title).

Like De Niro, Garcia embodies a variation of a staple American screen hero, a compulsive, obsessive man whose career has cost him his marriage–possibly his peace of mind.

What makes “Jennifer 8″ more noteworthy than the current slate of thrillers is the screenplay of Bruce Robinson, who wrote the Oscar-winning script for The Killing Fields,” and the movie’s quiet, resonant mood. Robinson, who also directed “Jennifer 8,” actually develops two interesting characters that in the course of the film are entangled in a complex relationship.

The stunningly beautiful Uma Thurman (Henry & June, Dangerous Liaisons) plays Helena Robertson, a blind girl, who may be the killer’s next victim. The novelty here is that Helena is not a blind woman, but a woman who happens to be blind–the film presents her blindness as a matter-of-fact, refusing to ask the audience to feel pity or sorry for her.

Robinson shows again his penchant for drawing multi-layered portraits of people who live on the fringe. You may recall his British movie “Withnail & I,” the acclaimed comedy about two down-and-out actors. Indeed, the two leads in “Jennifer 8” are surrounded with half a dozen secondary characters who are credible are much more than functions in the plot–as seems to be the norm of so many thrillers.

Unlike Adrian Lyne (“Fatal Attraction”), whose visual style consists of manipulative montage, fast cutting and editing, cheap shocks, Robinson takes his time in building suspense and the climax is late in coming. But there is greater attention to characterization, detail, and milieu. The distinguished cinematographer Conrad Hall, who won an Oscar for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” captures the luminous beauty of the area; the constant rain.