Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Movie Review: Eye For An Eye (1996)


A mother's vigilante justice drama, Eye For An Eye works hard to raise a sweat but remains just one notch above TV movie fare.

Karen and Mack McCann (Sally Field and Ed Harris) have two daughters, teenager Julie (Olivia Burnette) and the much younger Megan (Alexandra Kyle). On the day of Megan's birthday, a home intruder violently rapes and kills Julie. Detective Joe Denillo (Joe Mantegna) arrests lowlife delivery man Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland), and with strong DNA evidence linking him to the crime, a conviction appears likely. But Doob escapes justice on a technicality and is released, infuriating Karen.

She joins a victim support group where she befriends the sympathetic Angel Kosinsky (Charlayne Woodard), and secretly starts plotting to take justice into her own hands. She tracks Doob's movements and begins to suspect that he is about to rape and murder again. In desperation, Karen turns to a group of grieving parents who appear to be facilitating vigilante justice, including Sidney Hughes (Philip Baker Hall). But Karen will learn that extracting revenge is much more difficult than she imagined.

Directed by John Schlesinger and adapted from the Erika Holzer novel, Eye For An Eye has above-average talent working with below average material. The urbanite victim frustrated by the justice system and deciding to turn to vigilantism is at least as old as Charles Bronson in Death Wish (1974). That movie and all its sequels and imitators, including women revenge fantasies in such fare as Ms. 45 (1981), squeezed the concept dry a good 15 years before Eye For An Eye.

The film does try, and Schlesinger raises the violence quotient by ensuring that the two rape and murder scenes are harrowing and painful to watch. Forcing Karen McCann to listen-in over a cell phone as her daughter is assaulted adds to the sense of a parent's helplessness and increases the justification for her fury. Sally Field dominates the film and delivers a committed performance, while Kiefer Sutherland does his part by creating in Robert Doob a truly hate-worthy piece of white trash, a psychopath driven by the basest animal instincts to copulate and kill. Doob taunting Karen and Mack in the courtroom after the case against him is thrown out is a classic piece of despicable behaviour.

But the weaknesses of the material are quickly apparent. This is a film in which nothing will be known about Doob's backstory, and most of the strong supporting cast is wasted. Ed Harris, Joe Mategna and Beverly D'Angelo (as Karen's business partner) are derivative characters reduced to the shallowest of line readings, and several potentially interesting sub-stories featuring Angel and Sidney are abandoned when convenient.

Eye For An Eye is predictable revenge fare, arriving late to the party and leaving next to no impression.






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