Saturday, December 11, 2010

When Justice Fails

Gidget goes Charles Bronson in EYE FOR AN EYE, a rather heavy-handed thriller Paramount justifiably buried in its January ’96 graveyard.

Sally Field, playing a grieving mother who considers vigilantism in the wake of her daughter’s murder, is earnest enough and surrounded by a bravura cast, but the simplistic screenplay by the makers of THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE infects the production with a Lifetime Television mentality that lets the actors down. It doesn’t get off to a good start when a hysterical Field runs down the street with a phone in her hand screaming for someone to lend her a phone.

Karen (Field) and Mack McCann (Ed Harris) are traumatized after their teenage girl is murdered in their home. The police, represented by Sergeant DeNillo (played by Joe Mantegna as a mealy-mouthed wimp to suit the movie’s one-track agenda), find the killer, Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland), but have to free him on a technicality. Because EYE FOR AN EYE can’t decide if it wants to be a mindless vigilante thriller or a serious examination of the issues, it stacks the deck to prevent the audience from thinking. Sutherland plays Doob as an evil, remorseless redneck, and the authorities are almost comically ineffectual in their efforts to jail him. He spits on the sidewalk, cackles while driving erratically, and even pours hot coffee on a stray mutt.

Ultimately, EYE FOR AN EYE doesn’t even have the courage of its convictions, putting Doob into a situation where Karen has no choice but to kill him. Perhaps the climax satisfies the audience’s desire to see a nasty villain dead, but it’s a dramatic copout that makes the preceding ninety minutes feel like a waste.

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