Thursday 3 April 2008

Eye for an Eye

Ah, the early 1990s... We were happy in our grey jeans and Nirvana T-shirts, drinking Tab Clear and watching Eerie, Indiana. But then, we weren’t the children of Sally Field. If we were, it would’ve been a different story, believe me. Because the early 1990s were NOT a good time to have Sally Field as your mommy. The evidence:
  • Not Without My Daughter (1991) – Sally’s daughter held captive in Islamic Iran.

  • Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) – Sally’s son and daughters held captive by a hairy man-nanny.

  • Forrest Gump (1994) – Sally’s son, a simpleton, wears leg braces, is annoying.

None of those come close to the horrors of 1996’s Eye for an Eye, however. Here, the opening credits are barely over before Sally’s 17-year-old daughter, Julie, is savagely raped and murdered in her own home by Kiefer Sutherland. And not even cool, Lost Boys- or 24-era Kiefer Sutherland, either. This is wilderness-years Kiefer with a stinky-looking vest and nasty mullet. Even worse, Sally actually hears the whole ordeal over her mobile phone – possibly on a peak-rate tariff. Yes, Eye for an Eye is one of those films that sets out to remind you that bad shit can happen to you even if you live in a house like this:

Other than accidentally eavesdropping in on her daughter’s violent death, Sally (character name: Karen McCann) has a perfect life. She’s wealthy, married to Ed Harris, and works at a “media museum”, a large room full of public video booths – a bit like the porn shop at the start of The Howling, but with less privacy (and porn). Although this doesn’t quite qualify her as an Anchorwoman In Peril, it’s interesting that, like so many lead female characters in stalker-thrillers, she has a media-related job, especially since it’s of no actual relevance to the plot.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes: 1990s, Sally Field, dead daughter, Tab Clear... When a legal technicality means that Julie’s killer is released without charge, Sally knows she has to do something. So she leaves the safety of her home in the Palisades:

...and follows Kiefer into his terrifying ethnic neighbourhood, where people have arguments on street corners and there’s always loud foreign-sounding music playing. There, she witnesses him pour hot coffee on a dog and kick a bin. (He really is a nasty man.) Worse still – if you can possibly imagine things getting any worse – his job as a delivery man means that he’s always gaining entrance into the homes of young women. How long will it be before he kills again? And what can Sally do about it?

Well, for starters, she can buy a gun off Philip Baker Hall in a restaurant – the typical local arms dealer if you live here:

Soon Sally’s sneaking off work to take self-defence classes and practise her target shooting at the firing range. Unlike Jodie Foster in The Brave One, however, she doesn’t start taking pot-shots at random criminals; it’s Kiefer she has her eye on, and she won’t rest until she’s brought him to justice...

I have a love-hate relationship with vigilante revenge moves. On the one hand, I’m easily drawn in by the manipulative writing necessary to make them really work, and just LOVE it when someone gets their nuts blown off for daring to escape Death Row on a technicality. On the other hand, however, I hate the... Hang on a minute, I don’t hate anything... What am I saying? It’s a love-LOVE relationship! I love vigilante revenge moves, despite the fact they go completely against my morals.

Perhaps that’s why I prefer them to be on the outlandish side, like The Punisher and Death Sentence. But, while Eye for an Eye goes for a veneer of respectability, there’s just something inherently silly about a 50-year-old Sally Field wearing a baseball cap and waving a gun around. And, if Sally is silly, then Kiefer Sutherland’s grease-ball baddie is a complete cartoon – but I don’t mean that as a criticism. If he were a complex, fully-rounded individual with real psychological problems, I’m not sure I would’ve wanted him as downright dead. And what fun would that be?

Eye for an Eye was directed by John Schlesinger, who knew how to make a powerful thriller (see Marathon Man if you don’t believe me, and Pacific Heights if you still don’t). And Eye for an Eye is a powerful film... Supremely silly, but powerful and gripping too.

For all his smarts behind the camera, however, Schlesinger leaves in a couple of fairly hilarious goofs involving people reflected in mirrors that, shall we say, shouldn’t be reflected in mirrors. I’ll let you click, zoom and spot them for yourself...

Ever get the feeling you’re being watched, Sally?

Rating: 3/5


Fletch said...

Your intro is awesome. Poor Sally.

Nayana Anthony said...

VERY entertaining review! I never thought about the curse that followed Sally Field's kids in the 90's... Do you think it was ever broken? Are Calista Flockhart and that chick from Six Feet Under gonna be ok?

Ross Horsley said...

Fear not! The curse was finally broken when Sally made Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco - which fulfilled her obligation to star in two talking-cat movies and/or play a character named “Sassy” - and her kids have been fine ever since.

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie when it came out in theaters and I don't remember it being nearly as good as this review!

What I do remember is that my friend sat next to me and every time a plot twist might occur, she'd lean in and whisper to me what was going to happen. So annoying. Maybe it comes from watching soaps, but I just like to let the plot unfold and it can be simple, I just want to be interested.

Do I sound bitter? I'm getting old!