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USA 1996
Directed by
John Schlesinger
101 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

Eye For An Eye

John Schlesinger had an impressive career that began with the British school of “kitchen sink” realism in the 1960s and included the Oscar-winning Midnight Cowboy in 1969. This might explain why Eye For An Eye has a substantial cast of actors who presumably signed up expecting something much better than the routine and tasteless revenge thriller which Schlesinger’s penultimate feature is.

Sally Field plays Karen McCann, a suburban mother of two girls whose teenage daughter from her first marriage is raped and killed in their home on her birthday. In the aftermath Karen attends a support group with her husband Mack (Ed Harris). Det.Sgt Denillo, the cop (Joe Mantegna) handling the case quickly catches the perp, Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland), but despite corroborating DNA and semen samples Doob gets off on a technicality. Karen starts stalking Doob determined to have her revenge and approaches a member of the support group (Philip Baker Hall) to help her mete out cold justice.

Scripted by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa based on a novel of the same name by Erika Holzer the plot is unconvincing as it charts the transformation of Karen into a would-be killer of a despicable villain (amongst his negative qualities he kicks dogs) who enjoys taunting Karen by turning up in the play ground of her daughter’s primary school. School security may have been laxer in 1996 than today but this seems unlikely. Surprisingly Karen doesn’t tell Denillo or get a restraining order against Doob who blithely commits another murder rape. At no stage is there any attempt to explain Doob’s motives which of course makes it easier to terminate him. Presumably this also explains Schlesinger’s decision to show both the murder-rapes with graphic relish.

It must be said that in the two-dimensional role Sutherland is effective but whether that is a feather in his cap is another matter (compare for instance Robert DeNiro’s Max Cady in Scorsese’s Cape Fear , 2001). The same can’t be said of Field (who began her career in the popular '60s sitcoms Gidget and The Flying Nun) in a role originally intended for Jamie Lee Curtis who would have brought a much needed physicality to the role. Harris, whether by intention or not comes across as ineffectual something evidently confirmed in a bedroom scene in which much to his surprise Karen takes the dominant role in the rumpy-pumpy.

Eye For An Eye seems designed as a sop to gun-happy American women. Why Schlesinger would lend his considerable talent to such an agenda is a mystery.

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