Eye for an Eye
- Sally Field as Karen McCann
- Kiefer Sutherland as Robert Doob
- Ed Harris as Mack McCann
- Joe Mantegna as Detective Joe Denillo
A dramatic thriller, Eye for an Eye starts strong yet quickly goes off course and becomes sub-par. Considering it had potentially thought-provoking material dealing with failed justice and what could happen if we were to contemplate revenge, Eye for an Eye unfortunately lays on the ridiculousness that ultimately undoes it.
Karen McCann has a great husband in Mack, a good job and two daughters in Julie(from her previous marriage) and Megan. Yet her world is turned upside down by savage events that unfold on her youngest daughter’s birthday. Stuck in a horrendous traffic jam, she calls Julie to tell her that she’s going to be late. While on the phone, Julie answers the door to someone who begins attacking the girl, leading to rape and finally her death. Horrified, Karen here’s everything on the phone and is frozen in terror. She then tries to find help, eventually contacting the police. Completely inconsolable when she’s informed of her daughter’s graphic murder, Karen refuses to move on with her life despite the best efforts of her supportive husband to guide her through the unimaginable grief. During this time, one Robert Doob is arrested for the murder of Julie, thanks to the work of Detective Joe Denillo, who is confident that they have a case. Karen thinks this will bring closure as the disgusting Doob will pay for what he did, but she is wrong as it doesn’t turn out that way. Due to a technicality with one piece of evidence, the snarling Doob who it is obvious is the culprit gets off and is now free. This completely shocks Karen and Mack, but most of all Karen who begins to dangerously obsess about Doob. She starts to follow the psychopathic man, detailing his movements and day-to-day activities. Mack, who wants to grieve in his own way and slowly move on, begins to suspect his wife is slipping into obsession, but his actions are futile as his wife won’t listen to him. Meanwhile at the same time, Karen discovers that within the counsel group that she has been attending, there are a few who failed by justice engineer vigilante killings and training. Devastated beyond belief by the cruel murder of her daughter and the inability for anyone to do anything, Karen quietly joins this covert group and begins planning her next move. Yet Doob is still hanging around and is likely to strike again, which firmly makes up Karen’s mind of what she’ll do next. Slowly her rage and disillusion with the legal system completely spill over and she begins to plan killing Doob for all the pain he has caused her. The main question is can Karen really go through with killing him knowing that the consequences could be dire for her if she does?
John Schlesinger may not be at his very best here, but his expertise are competent enough despite how riddled the film is with flaws. Some good tension is generated from his direction, yet even that isn’t enough to make Eye for an Eye a credible movie. Instead of taking a route that could have probed deep questions, Eye for an Eye settles for full on revenge mode as it carries on, without so much as a question of actions or implications. The film may have been a lot better if the issues of vigilantism and the frailty of justice through people’s eyes were presented with significantly more clarity and moral standpoint. Which brings me on to the problematic nature of what Eye for an Eye is trying to be, or in this case doesn’t know what it wants to be. If it was attempting to be a complex thriller posing controversial questions, it doesn’t succeed because a lot of the decisions that the script has the characters make are without thought of repercussion. And when it comes to the scenes of violence and rape there are times when it borders on gratuitous and exploitative. Eye for an Eye just never digs deep enough to bring out the themes it could have explored much better. A rather uninspired score does little to bolster any of the film.
One part of Eye for an Eye that can’t be criticized is the acting, which is one of the few things that keeps you watching despite the problematic source material. In the main role of the vengeful Karen, Sally Field is ideally cast. Always a strong performer in my eyes, Field imbues the film with a lot more emotion than the by the numbers script had and is powerful throughout. Filled with inconsolable rage and deep sadness that won’t be contained, Sally Field does a stellar job in this film that lifts it to watchable level. She deserved a better film to showcase her skills but her performance here is outstanding and emotionally convincing. Kiefer Sutherland is excellent as the utterly repellent murderer/rapist and its a testament to his talents as an actor that the audience feels complete and utter revulsion for him. Providing solid support is the ever dependable Ed Harris whose stoic emotions and firm dedication to his wife are put under threat due to her need for justice. Given little to do but still pretty good is Joe Mantegna as the detective growing concerned about Karen’s actions.
Despite the great cast it boasts, Eye for an Eye is simply a waste of a film that had possibly provocative and serious topics to present maturely and with balance. But instead of that, it can’t provide either dramatic impact or topical discussion on the subject of taking the law into one’s own hands.