Paramount // 1996 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 16th, 2002
What do you do when justice fails?
One of the worst things that can happen to a parent is the premature death of their child. How horrid it must be to know that the life you created has been snuffed out well before its time. What would you do? To whom would you turn? How could you go on? In 1996, director John Schlesinger (Marathon Man) brought together actors Sally Field (Places In The Heart), Ed Harris (The Abyss), and Kiefer Sutherland (TV's 24) together to answer none of these penetrating questions, opting instead to produce the indifferent Eye For An Eye. Based on the novel by Erika Holzer and also starring Beverly D'Angelo (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation) and Joe Mantegna (The Godfather Part III), Eye for an Eye sticks a needle in your left socket on DVD care of Paramount Home Entertainment.
Karen McCann (Field) lives a simple and loving existence with her devoted second husband Mack (Harris) and their two young daughters. On the eve of her youngest daughter's birthday their world is shattered when a stranger forces his way into their home, raping and killing Karen's eldest child while Karen listens on a cell phone in her car. Devastated by the viciousness of the crime, Karen and her husband seek solace in the fact that the man who killed their child, Robert Doob (Sutherland), is soon caught and tried for murder. With the evidence mounted against Doob (including DNA proof), the prosecution thinks it has an open-and-shut case. But when Doob is set free on a technicality, Karen is enraged to the point of seeking out a vigilante group while attending a local support group for parents of children lost to violence. While mastering the art of karate and learning her way around a handgun, Karen learns that Doob has killed again and once more escaped the law! Now Karen must make one of the toughest choices of her life: live in peace with her daughter's death, or seek revenge on the one man responsible for Karen's unending pain!
Well, well, well...isn't this a manipulative little movie. After the end credits starting rolling, I realized that I had expected so much more from the people who made this movie. Sally Field, Ed Harris, director John Schlesinger...all of these people have produced far better work than this little stinker. Shame on all of you for getting involved in Eye for an Eye.
What's wrong with Eye for an Eye? Well, I'm glad you asked. To start with, the characters are all unbelievable thin and one-dimensional. The worst example of this is Kiefer Sutherland's dastardly Robert Doob. Here is a man who is so vicious and evil that he makes Charles Manson look like Christie Brinkley. With his slicked back hair, menacing goatee, and casual dress that screams, "Hey, I enjoy looking like a murderer!" Doob is a man that appears to have had the cards stacked against him well before he strolled into this film. When I'm watching an action or horror movie, I normally don't mind if the villain is truly a disturbingly evil individual. When I'm watching a drama about the loss of a mother's child, I think it may be in the writer's best interest to at least give the bad guy one or two human qualities. Ohhh, he owns dirty magazines. He MUST be evil! As it stands, Sutherland's Doob is comparable to none other than Satan in the flesh.
Field's character doesn't fare much better -- her emotional ride from loving mother to crushed mourner is about as lengthy as a matchstick. After her daughter is killed, the director shows us a few scenes where Karen weeps, then goes on about her daily life as if she had incurred only a mild shaving rash on her leg. It's fairly obvious that the makers wanted to hurry past any emotional punch and move on to the good old climactic battle of good vs. evil. Field does what she can with her role, but like almost every other character it's uneven and jagged. Even Ed Harris, a usually stunning actor, seems lost with this script. At one point near the end of the film he yells at Karen, staunchly stating about his murdered stepdaughter, "I loved her. And I miss her. Just as much as you do!" This is the most emotion Harris' character shows throughout the entire film, and it seems to happen a considerable amount of time after his step daughter's funeral. It seems that this movie jumps from scene to scene without any consideration for characterization. Script doctor! There are a few interesting faces in the supporting cast, including Beverly D'Angelo, the great Joe Mantegna, Philip Baker Hall (Magnolia), and Keith David (They Live), but almost all their roles are wasted.
This is a slow, predictable thriller without much bite. The characters aren't interesting, the movie is poorly paced, and the dialogue is inanely bland. That, however, isn't the worst thing about this film. The ending (which I won't spoil here) is so ludicrous and empty that it made me actually hold my head in my hands in disgust. The movie makes no attempt to have the audience think or ponder. Eye for an Eye is a story that is by-the-numbers and very Hollywood -- it's all set-up and no execution.
Eye for an Eye is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Paramount has done a fine job of cleaning up this print and providing the viewer with vivid colors, well saturated black levels and even flesh tones. The only problems I spotted in this transfer included a small amount of edge enhancement in a few key scenes, as well as some shimmer near the end. Otherwise this is a nice looking image all around.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby 2.0 Surround in English, as well as Dolby Stereo in French. I wasn't expecting very much out of this soundtrack, and was rewarded accordingly. While there are a few instances of directional use through both the front and rear speakers (mainly with James Newton Howard's tense score), the bulk of this track is generally focused in the front and center speakers. However, the good news is that this mix is free and clear of any distortion or excessive hiss. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Biblically speaking, Eye for an Eye should be struck down by a thunderbolt from heaven for a complete lack of even a single theatrical trailer. Blasphemer!
I went and looked through my DVD collection and spotted two far better movies that deal with murder and criminals: Dead Man Walking and The Shawshank Redemption. These are also two of my favorite films. I recommend them by a far greater degree than Eye for an Eye.
Eye for an Eye is found guilty of criminal neglect with its story and characters! Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R