A thriller about a burned-out cop tracking down a serial killer. Why does this have a familiar ring?

"Jennifer Eight" does try to put some twists on this overdone genre by virtue of the film's setting (rural Eureka in northern California) and the killer's victims (they're all blind). The film is also directed with some flourish and boasts an earnest central performance by Andy Garcia in his first starring role.

Unfortunately, like so many of this ilk, the film eventually begins to unravel and has an ending that is most unsatisfactory. Still, it's better than the majority of what we've seen in this arena this year.

Garcia is an L.A. cop who moves to Eureka at the behest of his former partner and best friend (Lance Henriksen), a top cop married to Garcia's "sister" (Kathy Baker). Actually, Garcia's relationship to Baker is never adequately explained — something about her "adopting" him at some point. (Why do movies always seem to portray close associations in eccentric ways other than blood relatives or married couples?)

Anyway, Garcia's first day on the job has him heading for the city dump, where a body has been found. Then a severed hand is located in the same area. Before long, Garcia has come to the conclusion that a serial killer is on the loose.

Unfortunately, no one in the department believes him, so he has to disobey his captain's orders and investigate on his own. Along the way, he encounters a blind woman (Uma Thurman) who may be a witness — and, of course, they fall in love.

Ultimately, his obsession with the case goes too far and Garcia finds himself charged with murder, giving way to an extended sequence with John Malkovich as an FBI interrogator who grills Garcia endlessly. (These scenes are actually among the film's most interesting, with Malkovich giving an eccentric spin to what could have been just a routine character. But the fact remains that they are extraneous to the film — which is more than two hours long — as a whole.)

Garcia is appealing (if occasionally over the top) as the stressed-out cop and Thurman is quite believable as a blind woman, and there are even some sparks in their romance. The rest of the cast is also good and the technical credits (especially Christopher Young's music) are excellent.

Too bad writer-director Bruce Robinson (screenwriter of "The Killing Fields," writer-director of "How to Get Ahead in Advertising") relies on so many genre cliches and has no ending for the film.

"Jennifer Eight" is rated R for violence, profanity, vulgarity and nudity.