I rented this on DVD and I'm glad I didn't pay to see it in the theater. What I realized in this film is that Nicholas Cage cannot act. He was completely unbelievable as a family man. As he held his baby daughter and comforted her, all I could think was that he was just as likely to drop her out the window and walk away. These scenes were meant to contrast his idyllic family life and his innate goodness against the darkness that would soon envelop his character.
In the film, Cage is a private investigator who is respected and known for his confidentiality. His clients are wealthy people who do not want their dirty laundry aired before the world. He takes a case from an elderly widow who has found a Snuff film in her husband's belongings. She wants to know if the film is real and hires Cage to find out.
The scene in which Cage reels in horror as the masked man strikes the young girl was laughable. The violence was minor and his reaction was overdone. Watching the Snuff film, it was easy to tell it was a fake. The camera angles changed, and I highly doubt that there would be several cameras in different positions to catch every nuance. Nor could the director shout, "Cut!" (no pun intended) and have the scene reshot if it were real. "Sorry, dear. We'll have to stab you again. We didn't quite get the look we wanted." If I were Cage, I would have walked right over to the widow and explained all of this to her. Of course it is meant to be real and the film goes on from there.
We are supposed to care about the poor girl who was murdered, but I just couldn't. I didn't care about her, or Cage or anyone else in the film. Actually, that isn't quite accurate. Joachim Phoenix stands alone as the jewel in this film. He portrays a clerk in a sex shop who helps Cage into the seedy underworld of S&M. He was funny and warm and completely lively compared to Cage's corpse.
Save your money and hope that Cage gets some acting lessons or at least gets cast in movies he can pull off, like "Raising Arizona" or "Wild at Heart".