Paramount Pictures' Eye for an Eye
Reviewed by Robert Bidinotto in The Objective American (1996)
Worried about violent crime? You're not irrational. You're three times more likely to be a victim of violent crime now than was the typical adult of 1960.
Why? For one thing, because of decades of efforts to supplant justice with mercy, punishment with therapy, prisons with "corrections." In today's "justice" system, the only rights regarded as absolute are those which liberal courts have invented for criminals.
Films presenting that perspective are rare. Dirty Harry and Death Wish were the prototypes: revenge-fantasy thrillers, in which the intimate impact of crime on real victims quickly took a back seat to nonstop, shoot-'em-up action.
The gripping new film, Eye for an Eye, breaks the mold.
It's a serious, searing examination of the horrific personal impact of violent crime. And it's a damning indictment of how our impotent legal system is driving ordinary Americans toward vengeance and vigilantism.
Eye for an Eye is based loosely on the critically acclaimed novel by writer and lawyer Erika Holzer. She and her husband Henry Mark Holzer were former associates of Ayn Rand; and Holzer's original story was spun from romantic and philosophical threads one associates with her literary mentor.
While the film retains the novel's theme and message, it simplifies Holzer's complex plot, and cuts or combines many characters.
The result: a very different, but more intimate, story of the shattering repercussions of a ghastly crime and legalized injustice on one family.
The movie is an original, compelling work in its own right — a tale of justice that does justice to its source material and subject matter.
What does the novelist think of Hollywood's rendering of her work? "Spectacular! The director and screenwriters eloquently dramatize my hard-hitting theme," Holzer told me in a phone interview. “A justice system that leaves frustrated and enraged crime victims with no place to go is an invitation to vigilantism — something no sane person wants."
Two-time Oscar winner Sally Field plays Karen McCann, career woman, wife and mother. With her successful husband, Mack (Ed Harris) and two charming daughters, she lives happily in a quiet, securely upscale residential suburb of Los Angeles [Pacific Palisades] — until her security vanishes in one ferocious instant when sociopathic Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland) violates the sanctity of her home...
No film in recent memory has more effectively, or accurately, depicted the psychological aftermath of murder on family survivors. The heartbreak of dealing with a dead child's empty room and possessions — the depression and feelings of guilt — the marital and social strains — the torture shared at meetings of victim support groups — the inescapable paranoia — the fury against the perpetrator...all culminating for Karen McCann in blinding outrage against the system, when the smirking, sadistic Doob is released on a legal technicality... .
The stresses on Karen's marriage, career and soul mount.... By degrees, this ordinary woman begins to toy with the idea of personally avenging her daughter... . As the tension builds unbearably to a furious finale, it's impossible to tell any longer who is the cat...and who will be the mouse.
If this were a just world, Sally Field would be a shoo-in for [an] Oscar nomination. Throughout Karen McCann's roller-coaster ride, Field's bravura performance stays on track at every plunge and turn.
But if this were a just world, the film would be superfluous. Except for gratuitous references to a minor character's lesbianism, Eye for an Eye is extremely un-P.C. Liberals aren't going to like it one little bit.
In post-O.J. America, this drama will clean up at the box office. But not at the Academy Awards.
Field shines over a stellar supporting cast. Ed Harris's rock-steady, quiet endurance as Mack is achingly appealing, while Kiefer Sutherland is a menacing marvel of sadism and whim-worship. Scene-stealing honors go to Joe Mantegna for his dead-on depiction of Denillo, the helpless cop.
The screenplay by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa ( The Hand that Rocks the Cradle ) twists you tighter than an overwound alarm clock. They set up several standard plot clichés, only to throw unexpected curves.
Director John Schlesinger adds wonderful touches everywhere: a symbolic release of balloons during the harrowing opening sequence, reminiscent of one (in a similar context) in Fritz Lang's classic, "M"; a painful montage as Karen goes through her dead daughter's possessions; a flickering neon sign over Doob's fleabag hotel, crackling ominously.
Another behind-the-scenes standout is editor Peter Honess, whose judicious jump-cuts add nerve-wracking pace to action scenes.
And be forewarned: There are several scenes of (necessarily) very brutal violence. Though brief and rendered subliminally, they are hard to bear...but will be long remembered.
Says Holzer, "This movie is going to raise people's consciousness about the consequences of justice denied."
Sneak Previews (Michael Medved and Jeffrey Lyons, co-hosts)
Lyons: Eye for an Eye is one of five big new films we cover on this first Sneak Previews of 1996.
Medved: ...This is a movie from director John Schlesinger that covers some of the same territory as Dead Man Walking but approaches the subject in a very different way. [Clip from Eye for an Eye]
Lyons: This is a very powerful movie . ... I think Sally Field's performance is very powerful and absorbing and...you can relate to it. But particularly in that scene where she listens in on her daughter's [attack] and is powerless to stop it. You are so frustrated, you want to do something to help her...
Medved: Well, all the acting is fine. Sally Field is outstanding, as she always is. I don't think Kiefer Sutherland has ever been so good in any role . ...
The first half of the film, which really emphasizes the terribly unimaginable suffering of the parents of a child...is extremely good. I mean, it really grips you!
Lyons: Doesn't it, though?
Medved: The second half of the film, where it sort of concentrates on her planning her revenge, is a little bit less excellent.
Lyons: Yeah... Normal people usually don't do those kinds of things, but it makes for good drama, doesn't it?
Medved: Well, it's based on a fine novel by Erika Holzer. And in the novel, there's a little bit more humanity to Keifer Sutherland's character — there are more human touches....
Lyons: I like Joe Mantegna as the cop. Everybody works well together here — particularly, Ed Harris. In one scene, Field questions whether he can grieve for the loss of his stepdaughter the way she can grieve for the loss of her own child by blood...and he gets hurt and says, "I felt this as much as you did. She's my child, too!" For me, this was the unintentional high point of this movie. There were fine performances from everyone here.
Medved: Yeah, all around. John Schlesinger works extraordinarily well with actors, and he's also terrific at building up the intensity, using the lighting and camerawork. It's a very smooth surface, a very fine film. A modern-day morality tale. Just a little bit disappointing with the contrived ending.
We recommend Eye for an Eye, though with just a few reservations. It's devastatingly effective at showing the pain of the relatives of [violent crime] victims. But in dramatizing a drive for revenge, it's somewhat less convincing .
Reviewed by: Joan Bunke (Des Moines Register)
***1/2 — " R " (rape, violence, language)
It's no accident that a five-second TV clip from the O.J. Simpson murder trial pops up early in Eye for an Eye. In his compelling new thriller, John Schlesinger focuses on justice, the perception of justice, the rights of victims, and the innocent — and the thirst for revenge when justice fails. This is a very "now" film.
Schlesinger and star Sally Field, who has matured and grown to the point that she's now more actress than "personality," makes this an absorbing tale of modern crime and punishment. If at the end the moviegoer is forced to make moral and legal distinctions, and to choose sides, that's simply one of modern society's givens.
Violence explodes into the happy life of Karen McCann (Field), a prosperous California wife and professional woman, who believes in all of those society rules many of us have been taught. Her 17-year-old daughter is attacked.
A good cop (Joe Mantegna) puts together a firm case against the scruffy, cocky Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland), a delivery man with a criminal record, and McCann and supportive husband Mack (Ed Harris) go to court to see justice done. Instead, a serious technicality about evidence forces the judge to drop charges, and Doob, sneering nastily, goes free.
Karen tries to deal with the injustice [but]...there's no consolation. Obsessed with Doob, she shadows him...and, of course, her [conduct] becomes obvious — to the criminal and to the cop. Warned off by both, she steps back...until another grotesque act of violence bursts forth.
After that, making distinctions between morality and legality, between justice and revenge, becomes secondary to the trap this devastated mother sets. Echoes of other justice-revenge films such as The Jagged Edge bounce through this film, but its solid quality is distinctively Schlesinger's.
Field, who isn't afraid to use her facial lines to depict her character's grief, is totally convincing and utterly sympathetic. Young Sutherland creates an equally believable killer. His Robert Doob looks and sounds precisely like the street monsters we've become familiar with as our newspapers chronicle real-life murders.
Unlike many of today's other violent films, Eye for an Eye takes on a realistic case and uses it to "entertain" us while forcing us to confront very real weaknesses in the American justice system.
Reviewed by: Susan Waugh (The Riverfront Times, St. Louis, MO)
John Schlesinger has created an amazing array of films, beginning with dazzlers set in his native England : A Kind of Loving, Billy Liar, Darling, and Far From the Madding Crowd. When Schlesinger first turned to the United States as subject, he came up with the immortal Midnight Cowboy. His subsequent films have varied in both subject and quality: The Day of the Locust, Marathon Man, Yanks, TheFalcon and the Snowman, and Madame Sousatzka. Of this last, the less said the better; we all make mistakes. Artists should be judged by their peaks and not by their inevitable valleys.
Eye for an Eye might be considered a very solid 8,000-foot mountain. Though Schlesinger has clearly become fascinated with the Hollywood-style thriller, he extracts only the best of that much-abused genre. He builds on character dynamics and social analysis, eschewing cheap plot tricks, action overload and unnecessary violence. This is not simply the Flying Nun learning to pack a gun after her daughter is attacked. Eye offers a substantial, if finally confused, answer to ageless human questions about law, justice and revenge.
The world has seemed safe and just to Eye heroine Karen (Field), though she has suffered one obvious hard knock: The father of her smart, beautiful, nice Julie — now 17 — was MIA pretty early on. Happily, Karen later met and married a wonderful man (Ed Harris) and had Megan. The McCanns have two careers, an "American Dream" house in Pacific Palisades, a wonderful marriage, and terrific kids.
The action opens with plans for Megan's sixth birthday party. As Eye's advertisements have revealed, Julie is attacked as Karen — stuck in L.A. traffic — listens helplessly on the car phone.
This early sequence goes right to the heart of Eye's emotion: the overwhelming maternal/paternal desire to protect a child from all harm, danger and fear. Parents need the illusion that they possess the power to protect. That illusion can shatter abruptly. Can any anguish on earth approach witnessing one's own child's suffering? In a very moving performance, Sally Field communicates Karen's pain and her struggles to bring it to resolution.
Karen and Mack witness the obviously guilty perpetrator let off on a technicality. A routine shift of personnel in the prosecutor's office seals the matter.
Eye makes the case "cleaner" by making Doob easy to hate. He only feels alive when he is inflicting pain on others, especially women. This scumbag even thinks it's fun to pour hot coffee on a dog.
Once justice fails, Karen becomes swamped in her grief. She cuts off emotionally from the loving husband and daughter...an unfortunately common grief dynamic. ...[O]bsessed with Doob, she observes his routine [but] the case detective (the marvelous Joe Mantegna) can do nothing, though he tries to deal with Doob off the record.
Eye gives us viewpoints and experiences beyond Karen's. A support group [of violent crime victims], with full permission to articulate murderous fantasies, presumablyhelp each other work through feelings without acting on them. But Karen's desire for revenge — and her desire to protect future victims — finally blocks everything else....
Eye for an Eye might have pushed some of these vexing contradictions more fully. Law and justice do not always coincide here on earth; we all know that. Yet if we want a good human society, we must always struggle to make them meet.
Eye's ending becomes regrettably muddled...through Mantegna's character, showing the system to be "flexible" enough to render some "under the table" justice. It is a good human compromise . . . or is it corruption? Will the McCann family heal, or has it been poisoned irretrievably? Has good overcome evil, or has evil managed to taint goodness? Eye for an Eye seems to lack the courage to take a clear stand.
Would that David Mamet, that sharp scythe, had written Eye's screenplay.
On the other hand, let not the perfect be the enemy of the good. Eye for an Eye is a very good film, marvelously acted, thoughtfully edited, with many gifts and much wisdom.
May this mountain give us the strength and courage to seek higher altitudes. May this mountain help us accept the imperfection of all persons and institutions. May it also help us take personal responsibility for breaking cycles of violence, pathology and revenge. Eye offers a compelling film experience that adds to an important dialogue.
Reviewed by: Harper Barnes (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Modern Times: Violence, Injustice, Revenge
There's a memorable little moment in Eye for an Eye, a generally effective revenge thriller starring Sally Field. Field's character has been taking self-defense lessons and is walking to her car one night when she senses that someone is following her. She turns on the man and delivers a swift kick that sends him moaning to his knees.
It's the wrong guy. She apologizes. But when she sees he's going to be all right, a little smile flickers across her face.
The scene is about more than a woman's pride in no longer being defenseless. It also points out, in a semi-comic way, that righteous violence can misfire and harm innocent people. And it shows commendable dramatic restraint on the part of Sally Field and director John Schlesinger — some directors would have had her grinning and strutting like Deion Sanders crossing the goal line.
Eye for an Eye is a skillful, entertaining melodrama . . . . Kiefer Sutherland, who seems to be becoming his generation's Richard Widmark, is adequately infuriating as the arrogant criminal... Ed Harrisis solid as usual. The same can be said of Joe Mantegna, who plays a frustrated, overworked homicide detective.
The movie is loosely based on the novel by Erika Holzer.
Reviewed by: Joe Leydon (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)
Erika Holzer's Novel, Eye for an Eye, Goes to Film
Sally Field earned an Academy Award for playing a feisty union activist in Norma Rae, and another for playing a courageous Depression-era widow in Places in the Heart. So it's not like playing women with iron will and steely spines is new to her.
Even so, neither of those earlier films called for Field to take the law into her own hands, to wreak bloody vengeance on some heinous villain.
Field's latest movie, Eye for an Eye, is a different story altogether.
“We're certainly not advocating vigilantism here,” Field insisted during a recent interview in a posh Beverly Hills hotel suite. “But we are showing the story of someone who is an average citizen, and what happens to her when violence is thrust into her life. It's the story of what this one person does, and how it sucks her down to the level of violence that is perpetrated against her.”
Field stars in Eye for an Eye as Karen McCann, the mother of a lovely teen-age girl who is [brutally attacked] in her own living room by a grinning psychopath named Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland).
Unfortunately, the psycho has a great lawyer.
Even more unfortunately, the evidence against him is improperly handled by the [district attorney's office]. One thing leads to another, the case against the psycho is dismissed, and...there's nothing more the legal system can do.
Mack McCann (Ed Harris), stepfather to Field's older daughter, is understandably furious. As time goes by, however, Mack manages to sublimate his rage and frustration, if only so he can preserve his sanity and go on with his life.
But his wife, Karen, is neither willing, nor able, to follow her husband's example. At first, for reasons she doesn't entirely understand, she follows Doob, maintaining a surveillance like some TV detective. In time, she actually sees him checking out the home of a potential victim. The cops can't do anything to head him off.
That's when Karen begins to notice that, in her support group for [victims of violent crime], some of the members may be channeling their rage into retribution, and she begins to think that vigilantism isn't such a bad idea.
“We were very careful not to make any judgment calls,” Field said, trying to pre-empt any possible criticism of her role in the film as a Death Wish [Charles Bronson-type] fantasy. “We're not advocating what [Karen] does, because her life is irrevocably damaged. As is her family's. Sure, there will be people who get off on [the movie] in a certain way, saying, 'Yeah! Get 'em!' There are always people who see things on just one level, or see them how they want to. But there is also another level — about what a tragedy this is. I mean, it is a human tragedy that she chooses the path she chooses.”
Perhaps the most provocative element of Eye for an Eye — which was based on the novel written by novelist Erika Holzer — is Karen's re-invention of herself in the wake of what happens to her family. Even before she makes her fateful decision to draw blood, she tries to make herself less of a victim and more of a take-charge person, through karate lessons and target practice. Indeed, as the movie indicates in two very ambiguous scenes, the more Karen empowers herself, the more aggressively she behaves on the street and — much to her husband's consternation — in the bedroom.
“Instead of moving toward her husband — instead of moving toward something that might ultimately be productive, like moving to another town and starting a new life — she moves toward the violence that changed her life in the first place,” Field said. “She is pushed toward places in herself that were never there before. Like, yes, she becomes sexually aggressive. And that's great, going after what you want with your husband. The difference is, in her case, it's angry. It's not nice. Sexuality and anger should not be connected. And that's what her husband reacts to. Not to her feelings of empowerment, or her sexual aggressiveness. But to the rage underneath all of that, that doesn't belong in their relationship.”
Reviewed by: David Brudnoy (Boston radio talk show host/newspaper columnist)
**** — "R"
Perhaps after the O.J. Simpson verdict, somebody might be able, without growing a Pinocchio nose, to insist that the legal system usually works well — and that manifestly guilty killers don't get off more frequently than most people would like to believe.
The reflexive liberal reaction to the movie Eye for an Eye has been a not-unexpected overkill: “This is just a right-wing screed against the exclusionary rule and other God-given protections of the rights of the accused,” we are instructed to believe. I even got a hand-delivered, semi-scrawled note attacking our [favorable radio] review of the film.
About the criminal (Kiefer Sutherland) portrayed in Eye for an Eye, we are in no doubt — nor is the law. We know that he is very likely to strike again, and that because of the wretched hamstringing of the law, a conviction of this monster is unlikely.
We've been set up to feel for mom — to want something to come along to stop this guy in his tracks and to have the legal system, and the police, find a way through the technicalities to bring justice to the story.
Naturally, the knee-jerk defenders of the pro-criminal system — among them, movie reviewers as well as academics and others — despise this film because it successfully evokes our sympathies on the side of the good guys.
Periodically, a movie comes along that smacks those on the left right in their arrogant puss — movies such as Hanoi Hilton and another Sally Field vehicle, Not Without My Daughter.
And Eye for an Eye.
The commendable desire for justice, which must now and again include slamming the bad guys hard, drives some folks nuts.
Eye for an Eye works because it awakens a praiseworthy desire by sane, decent Americans to see our contemptible legal system bettered.
Meanwhile, it champions a heroic woman's drive to do the job herself — a job that the American Civil Liberties Union types fear.
Review/Interview by: Lis Bensley (The New Mexican)
Signed, Sealed and Screened: Local Author's Film Opens Today
In the spring of l993, novelist Erika Holzer found herself living every writer's dream. Her novel Eye for an Eye had just been released by Forge Books, a division of St. Martin's Press, and within mere months of its publication date, Paramount Pictures bought — not optioned — the screen rights. Once the contract was signed, Paramount went right to work scripting and then filming this controversial story about the ramifications of our failed justice system.
Eye for an Eye opened today in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The film, directed by Academy Award winner John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Darling, Marathon Man), stars Sally Field, Kiefer Sutherland, Ed Harris, Joe Mantegna, and Beverly D'Angelo, in what, by film industry standards, was a remarkably fast turnaround.
But Holzer's message is a timely and highly charged one, geared toward illuminating the insidious problems that besiege our criminal justice system.
What if someone you loved was brutally murdered and the murderers got off scott free? What are your options? Your instincts? And, most important, how are the lives of what Ms. Holzer calls the second-tier victims — family members — affected?
We caught up with Holzer on the eve of her departure to Los Angeles, where she [and her husband] would see the completed film on the Paramount lot for the first time — only about a week before Eye for an Eye was scheduled to open “wide” both in the United States and abroad.
Q:You've not yet seen the film in its entirety, but you have read successive drafts of the screenplay. How true to your novel is the film version?
Holzer:The plot is quite different, but the theme of both novel and movie is pretty much the same. It took guts for the people at Paramount to make an outspoken and controversial picture like this, instead of cheapening it by turning it into a purely entertaining thriller. The final screenplay is just as no-holds-barred as my novel. And the movie poster, which I've seen, is very effective. I love the line they use on it: What do you do when justice fails?
Q:How much did they change your story to adapt it to the screen?
Holzer:They distilled and simplified — not unusual when you go from a complex and multi-layered novel like mine to movie format. They dropped characters, combined others, chose an adult psychopath over the juveniles I'd zeroed in on — things like that. As to the complex and very intriguing vigilante organization I created from sheer imagination in my novel, Paramount has considerably simplified this group — perhaps oversimplified.
Q:Did these changes bother you?
Holzer:When the producer first clued me in on what was happening, yes. But I very quickly put things in perspective. In fact, the first screenplay was much more like my book, in a plot sense, than the finalized screenplay done by two totally different screenwriters. I'm eager to see whether this version — the one I'm about to view for the first time in Los Angeles — is as effective on screen as I expect it will be from my reading of the script.
Q:As the novelist who created the characters, how do you feel about who was chosen for the cast?
Holzer:I guess I'm different from a lot of other writers with movie aspirations for their books — people who actually visualize their characters in terms of movie stars. Not only did I not do that, but even as I put characters into my novels, I deliberately maintain an almost impressionistic sense of their physical characteristics. I see, overall, attributes like hair and eye coloring, personal style, manner of dress, way of speaking — things like that. But the tiny details remain "loose" even while I'm in the act of creating them on paper — even to me. This was true of my first novel, Double Crossing, as well. Sometimes people I just run across or people that I know either casually or well, grab my attention vis a vis a particular character. From then on, if it's a good fit, so to speak, as that given character starts to take on the looks of the real-life person. But more often than not, my characters end up being a combination of certain "people types" — real, imagined, or both.
Q:Is Sally Field a good physical type for your novelistic heroine?
Holzer:She is, actually. It happened by sheer coincidence. An old college roommate and fellow Cornellian, whom I mention in Eye for an Eye's acknowledgements in connection with some technical help she gave me, was such an overall good physical type for my heroine that it was she, not Sally Field, that I had in mind: short, fit, black hair, arresting eyes, feisty personality.
From time to time, the producer of the movie would fill me in on who was being considered for what role, as well as who was interested in playing Karen Newman. (The list included Annette Benning, Signorney Weaver and, as it happens, Sally Field — a big admirer of John Schlesinger who'd never worked with him before, but wanted to.) Of all these actresses, Field — from my perspective — best fit the physical characteristics of my friend, Diana! And Sally Field is a powerful and persuasive actress. I suspect she'll more than do the role justice.
As for the movie's key villain, apart from wishing Paramount had stuck to my idea of violent juveniles, I couldn't be happier about Kiefer Sutherland. (I got to meet him on the set during the first week of shooting; very nice guy; very great actor.) As for Ed Harris, he's a wonderfully subtle actor who enhances every picture he's in, as far as I'm concerned. Joe Mantegna, who plays the frustrated detective in the film, has always been a favorite of mine, and when I heard he'd signed on, I was jubilant! He's an actor with an almost visceral hard edge — and a lot of passion. I've liked Beverly D'Angelo in everything I've ever seen her in.
Q:If you can tell from just reading the screenplay, what's been your biggest surprise about the film?
Holzer:How the hard-hitting, suspenseful prologue in my novel — set in the suburbs of New York — was so accurately dramatized in the movie's prologue, even though Paramount (for budgetary reasons) set the action in Los Angeles and suburban Pacific Palisades. What John Schlesinger and the screenwriters accomplished in this opening segment was every bit as harrowing and suspenseful as what I had achieved in my novel — notwithstanding the totally different locale and setup. It's truly a stunning achievement. I can't wait to see it on the big screen.
Greg Toppo (The New Mexican)
Novelist Greets Moviegoers at local Premiere
Santa Fe moviegoers — arriving for the local premiere of Sally Field's new movie, Eye for an Eye, at Villa Linda Mall's United Artists South this Friday the 13th — got an extra thrill. At a table in the theater's lobby sat sequin-gowned Erika Holzer, there to autograph huge, glossy movie posters, as well as hardcover copies of her novel, Eye for an Eye , on which the movie is based.
A large crowd of friends and well-wishers — not to mention complete strangers — packed the theater to nearly full house. Many, before entering the theater itself, stopped to buy books and posters, hoisting their poster onto the table for Holzer to sign.
The grainy posters, in limited supply, went free to the first 25 comers. They show the anguished Sally Field character, handgun drawn, beneath a provocative question: What do you do when justice fails?
Kiefer Sutherland plays a skuzzy psychopath. USA-Today called him "tattooed, scarred, and greasy as lard."
The R-rated movie premiered nationwide yesterday.
The Kansas City Star has called it "a finely acted and creatively directed movie that taps into disturbing questions about the criminal justice system and vigilantism."
Erika Holzer dedicated her novel to “the victims of crime, dead or alive.” When it was “showtime,” Holzer addressed her full-house audience from the theater's stage, praising Paramount Pictures' “courageous” decision to make this movie. After relating a number of colorful anecdotes about her visit to the set during the first week of shooting, she took questions from the audience.
And then the lights went out . . . .
Representative excerpts from various newspaper reviews:
“In a new movie, Sally Field is a far cry from Forrest Gump's mom. It's really hard to miss with Field, no matter what she's doing — and in Eye for an Eye, she's doing a lot. She carries an entire melodrama that may sound sort of like a female version of Death Wish but is actually a very well-made psychodrama that Sally fills with intensity.
She plays the most aggressive role of her career in this movie... .
Field's “mother,” a member of whose family is a victim of violent crime, flirts with the idea of taking the law into her own hands. This leads her, and the picture, into some very touchy areas. But ultimately, it's the drama that keeps it alive.
Eye for an Eye is an engrossing kind of exploration of one woman's frustration — and is not the celebration of revenge it may seem to be.”
“Okay, everybody, get the Gidget-got-her-gun jokes out of your system right now. Eye for an Eye, starring two-time Oscar winner Sally Field and directed by another Oscar winner, John Schlesinger, is a taut, emotionally charged thriller.
[T]his is more than a distaff Death Wish. It is also an exploration of the tainted fallout of violence, and the toxic aftershocks that can destroy a person or a family.
Almost nothing you've seen at the movies recently can prepare you for the sickening brutality of the first 10 minutes. Field is your typical does-it-all mom who gets stuck in downtown Los Angeles gridlock as she chats to her daughter on her cell phone. She hears sounds of a horrifying scuffle — so terrifying that she runs screaming from car to car seeking help. And doesn't get it.
You can tell the care that's been taken with Eye for an Eye — starting with the casting. This story could've been done as the Sally Show — a vengeance-is-mine-saith-the-mom TV movie — complete with second-rate talent in supporting roles.
But not only is Field solid through and through, but there is Ed Harris, excellent in what could have been a purely vanilla role. And Joe Mantegna — a patient and sympathetic cop, but one who's determined to stay within the law. Then there's Kiefer Sutherland, as the sneering embodiment of a predator. And finally, Beverly D'Angelo, in a small but critical role as Field's partner and friend.
Eye for an Eye reminds us what a group of pros can do with a simple but powerful story. A January opening can sometimes mean the studio has consigned a film to the junk heap, but, this time, Paramount has sent us a gem among all the garbage.”
“The pain that never stops. The worst possible realistic nightmare....
Eye f o r an Eye is emotionally wrenching as the hurt deepens for victims of violent crimes.
With good cat-and-mouse encounters, coupled with nice twists along the way, this motion picture shows how outrage and abuse may only be countered by vigilante justice — at least, it sure gives a positive argument for this.
Sally Field gives another fine performance as a woman torn between heartbreak and vengeance....
Something is definitely wrong in our society when legal technicalities and early paroles put killers right back on the street... .
This is a fine motion picture.”
Listen to the audience as they file out of the theater after viewing John Schlesinger's revenge thriller, Eye for an Eye :
— “A good movie, for a change,” they say.
— “I really liked this one,” they say.
— “I couldn't believe I was on my feet yelling,” they say.
This movie is a “crowd-pleaser” that actually seems to please crowds!
“In Eye for an Eye , based on the novel by Erika Holzer, Kiefer Sutherland plays the villain. Sutherland has played many villains before, but all of them have been sympathetic, tragic characters. Not so this time! His character is as evil as they come. He kills without exhibiting the slightest shred of remorse.*** Truly frightening to behold — I barely recognized him. His was easily the best performance of the film. He did a wonderful job of tapping into the primal nature of sexual violence.
For once, I knew exactly what feminists are talking about when they say rape isn't about sex. Viewers who are easily disturbed by such scenes should be warned. The violence isn't gratuitous in any way...but it might be a bit too much for some people....
This is easily one of the best movies I've seen in a long while.”
*** Kiefer Sutherland confided to author, Erika Holzer, at the Paramount premiere for Eye for an Eye in Los Angeles , that he was sick and tired of how Hollywood invariably gives criminals “humanistic” touches. That, as a (relatively) new parent, he totally sympathized with the plight of the violent crime victim, and that he'd deliberately refused to infuse his psychopathic killer with “excuses” like the all-too-common “bad” environment or an emasculating mother.
*** — (" R ") “Eye for an Eye is a cold-eyed, calculating movie for panicky times.
The film's satisfying revenge motif relies entirely on our watching Sally Field — that ultimately sane and stable citizen — sink to an unthinkable level in response to an unspeakable crime.
This is a movie to rally the mass audience as much as to entertain it.
Field's portrayal is at once touching, inspiring (in a ‘mugged liberal' kind of way), and terrifying, as she captures a soul capable of transforming grief to vindictive energy.
Though heroic in its context, Field's performance may be scarier than Kiefer Sutherland's — itself a hair-raising display. The screenplay makes his character sufficiently unpleasant, but Sutherland raises the ante with an interpretation that says the guy doesn't care what he does or whether he gets caught.
It is one thing to write remorselessness into a villain's dialogue — and quite another to find an actor capable of conveying that attitude without a word.
Director John Schlesinger is treading familiar waters here, recapturing that same darkness in the American heart he portrayed so ably in Midnight Cowboy.”
John Schlesinger will turn 70 this February. Instead of slowing down, he feels like he's starting all over again. Long considered one of the industry's most dependable craftsman, with a resume of intelligent hits, he failed to connect with either the material or audiences in his '90s work.
But this week's Eye for an Eye finds him near the top of his game. The movie marks his return to the theme of crime and punishment, with the opening sequences every parent's worst nightmare....
"The moral questions of what this woman does aren't answered in the movie," admits Schlesinger, a native and current resident of London. "But they are certainly explored in the journey that she's obliged to take. To me, the movie is not a revenge movie. It's about self-protection in the face of very little encouragement. In other words, the justice system is viewed as caring more about the aggressor than the victim."
“John Schlesinger made Midnight Cowboy and Sunday, Bloody Sunday. But it is the ferocity and narrative edge of his Marathon Man that make Eye for an Eye work.
Schlesinger gives the film a zippy pace and a natural momentum as direct as a hot knife negotiating a butter stick.
He is also still canny about casting. Sally Field is best at one-mindedness, whether her goal is union organizing (Norma Rae ), getting the story ( Absence of Malice ), or — in this case — avenging a child's death.”
“Eye for an Eye was a very grueling piece of work,” Sally Field said of the thriller that just opened. “If this character were a man, it wouldn't be the same story. Violence is never that far away from men, but it is so alien to a woman's nature. I've never even been in a fistfight. It's not in our nature [to fight], but that doesn't mean the capability isn't there.... There was a time in my life when violence was far away. But now it's right next door. We're all frightened. I know I am!”
Field, who loves thrillers, was glad she finally got the chance to be in one. She even agreed to do her own stunts to make the action scenes more credible, and the experience heightened her appreciation for what stunt people go through.
One scene in particular drove home the point. She and Kiefer Sutherland tumble down a flight of stairs while fighting. Schlesinger left the filming of that episode until everything else was in the can. On her first trip down the stairs, Field realized why . . . “I was such a mass of bruises after that that I couldn't have filmed another scene for two weeks. Kiefer was such a darling — he took the brunt of things. And we had really great stunt people helping choreograph it. But I still ended up utterly black and blue. We wanted it to look like it was — that I was fighting for my life.”