Eye for an Eye (1996)

15 May

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Eye for an Eye” is a confused movie that doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. Is it a film that tells us vigilantism is bad, or is it a film that shows the necessaries of such? It’s about a woman whose teenager daughter is raped and murdered, and seeks bloody revenge on the man who did it. She gets ahold of a gun, practices shooting targets every day for weeks, gains assistance from other secret vigilantes, and even follows the guy around from place to place.

This is of course still going after the man calls the mother on it and threatens her other, much-younger daughter if she’s seen near him again. But for her, it won’t end. Well OK fine, but what about the police? When the same man rapes and murders another woman, they’re still not able to lock him up, even though they clearly know he’s a killer as much as we do. Give me a break.

Early in the movie, the mother, Karen McCann (Sally Field), has heard her daughter’s attack and murder over the telephone as the daughter tried to call for help. And I have to admit, this is a pretty effectively horrifying scene—that we focus more on Field’s face makes the scene work well, as she does sell it with the proper emotions. That we don’t see the killer’s face in the cutting-back to the attack helps too.

But it’s pretty obvious very quickly who the killer is, as the film never lets us forget that a suspect, a deliveryman named Doob (Kiefer Sutherland), is not merely a suspect, but the true killer. He is vile, mean, cruel, nasty, doesn’t care for anything, and even kicks dogs. And yet even though a supposed-smart cop (Joe Mantegna) knows that he’s clearly the killer, and I’m sure most of the force knows this too, Doob is let off because of lack of evidence. So he’s free to find another woman to stalk and eventually kill, just as Karen is planning to do the same thing to Doob.

Karen joins a support group for parents who lost their children to murderers (and their motto is “You show me your heartbreak and I’ll show you mine”), where she is then introduced to a few members who take it upon themselves to bring justice to those who did their children in. So that’s exactly what she decides to do. But when Doob realizes that he’s being followed by her, he advances toward Karen’s youngest daughter, Megan.

Get this—he’s actually able to walk onto the school playground and join Megan in a playhouse for mud pies. Where are the teachers on duty during this? Does it matter? “Eye for an Eye” is simply an exploitation film and this scene clearly shows you where it stands. It also sets the standards for how deplorable the film is.

The tone for “Eye for an Eye” is inconsistent. First, it wants us to question whether the characters are what we’re supposed to think of them, while what follows are scenes that clearly show the opposite of what we’re supposed to think and feel. And it’s painfully obvious that Doob, with no human or redeemable qualities whatsoever, is simply there for us to hate him. Why try to fool us into thinking otherwise at certain points? He’s clearly the killer here. But it doesn’t matter anymore, since the movie, I guess, tries to “fool” us by ultimately showing another murder committed by him.

Oh, and how about those quirky, lighthearted, comedic moments that come out of nowhere? For example, Karen thinks someone is following her in a parking garage, so she defends herself only to discover that it’s just a man walking to his car. And do I even need to mention the scene in which she has powerful sex with her husband (Ed Harris) after developing new skills?

Here’s a shock—the ending for “Eye for an Eye” is so rushed and so much of a copout that you just have to wonder if the writers had no idea where this story was going, and just decided to give it the conclusion we all knew was inevitable. Well thanks a lot. We waited an hour-and-a-half to get to what we expected all this time with nothing at all to back it up. I should be grateful that it finally just went ahead and ended, but I am past the point where I even care, after what I’ve been through to get to this point. On top of that, morality is thrown right out the window. There’s hardly a resolution, and yet we’ve spent a great amount of running time watching a movie that thinks it’s questioning certain morals and ethics. And this is supposed to be a happy ending. In some respects, it sort of is, but why would they execute it in this manner?

Not even a solid cast with Sally Field, Kiefer Sutherland, and Ed Harris could save “Eye for an Eye.” They’re let down by bad writing and deplorable nonsense. Here’s hardly a sense of moral values, you don’t much for this family’s plight since it’s merely glanced over in the first reel, and it seems like it’s more interested in cheap thrills than telling a complex story. “Eye for an Eye” is a horrible movie.

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