"I thought snuff movies were an urban legend," says minor-league private eye Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage), as a white-haired woman (Myra Carter) hands him the 8mm filmstrip she found among her late husband's effects. Sure enough, it looks like the hollow-eyed
young girl onscreen is being horribly murdered. The elderly widow hopes it's a sick, slick fake and asks Welles to find the girl, launching a journey that takes him far from his loving wife (Catherine Keener) and baby, deep into the darkest heart of the smut business. Welles' guide to the
underworld is Max (Joaquin Phoenix), who works in a dirty book store and knows the hierarchy of bottom-feeders, but isn't as h...