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Paramount Studios presents
Eye For An Eye (1996)

"Sometimes things happen. Bad things. Even to the people we love the most in the whole wide world."
- Mack McCann (Ed Harris)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: May 07, 2002

Stars: Sally Field, Ed Harris
Other Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Joe Mantegna, Philip Baker Hall, Beverly D'Angelo, Olivia Burnette, Alexandra Kyle
Director: John Schlesinger

MPAA Rating: R for language and disturbing violence which includes rape
Run Time: 01h:41m:02s
Release Date: April 16, 2002
UPC: 097363309147
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+BB+ D-

DVD Review

There are only so many ways to repackage the traditional revenge/vigilante storyline, and this 1996 drama from accomplished director John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man) serves up a platter of emotional manipulation that hints at being edgy, but ends up rather conventional when all is said and done. I was very angry that this film, which began so powerfully, stuttered and stammered along to an annoyingly safe Hollywood third act that ruined what could have been a genuinely thought-provoking storyline.

Karen (Sally Field) and Mack (Ed Harris) McCann are a married couple, raising seventeen-year-old Julie (Olivia Burnette) and seven-year-old Megan (Alexandra Kyle). Their happy life is shattered when Julie is brutally raped and murdered in an emotionally disturbing, highly dramatic sequence early in the film. The scene plays out even more intensely because Karen, calling from her car, is on the phone with Julie during the attack, and the cuts between the assault and Karen's natural panic and terror as she sits, stuck in traffic, listening to her daughter being raped is heartbreaking. When a shifty delivery man named Richard Doob (Kiefer Sutherland) is arrested for the crime, it seems that indeed justice will be served. However, a legal snafu regarding Doob's DNA evidence results in him having to be released, much to the shock of Karen, Mack and detective Denillo (Joe Mantegna).

Karen quickly becomes obsessed with following Doob around town, and she repeatedly watches a videotape of his arrest, pausing on his face to study the man she believes killed her daughter. The McCanns join a support group for parents who have lost children to violence, which soon becomes a portal for some really misdirected advice that feeds the watered down final thirty minutes of this film.

One of my beefs about Eye For An Eye is Sutherland's greasy character of Doob. He is painted so broadly, and with such evil strokes that is impossible not to despise him immediately; he is a one-dimensional caricature of a movie bad guy. He is the type who pours hot coffee on dogs, and there is never any doubt that he is not only a rapist, but a murderer as well. Even during his release from custody, during the botched DNA evidence scene, he utters a line of dialogue that confirms to the audience that he is the guilty party, and once that occurs the story then slowly downshifts on its way to becoming another variation of Death Wish.

Sally Field, generally an actress I don't enjoy watching because she usually appears to be in such great pain in most of her roles, is remarkably watchable here. Her grief and anger play naturally, and her voyeuristic obsession with her child's killer doesn't seem like too much of a stretch. With the exception of a few contrived moments, Field delivers a fine performance of an extremely distraught woman.

It's a shame that Eye For An Eye begins so strong, only to flounder along to such a conventional, predictable climax. The potential for an even darker film, one that might have dealt with the uncontrollable grief and anger a parent would feel if their child were murdered, was forsaken by Schlesinger taking the easy way out.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: With a very clean 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Paramount has done a very respectable job on this disc. With the exception of some minor edge enhancement, and a bit of shimmer, the overall transfer is quite good. Colors are rich and vibrant, with natural flesh tones and strong black levels.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Paramount has released Eye For An Eye with a pair of pretty decent audio mixes, in 5.1 and 2.0 surround. I was pleasantly surprised at the subtlety of the transfer, as there are a number of sequences that feature some very discrete surround cues, in addition to the prominent James Newton Howard score, that give the film a bit of needed depth, and dramatically add to the ambience. This isn't the type of project that necessarily requires an overly active surround mix, but the presentation here was much better than anticipated. Rain and thunder is used effectively during one of the support group visit scenes, as is a helicopter passing overhead in a later scene. The surround effects are indeed minor, but create a measurable spatial effect. Imaging is presented well, with a natural separation across the front channels; vehicles move across screen properly, as do voices. The 2.0 mix holds up almost as well as the 5.1, with the only significant difference being the noticeable lack of discrete surround effect placement.

A French 2.0 surround track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Fourteen chapters and English subtitles are the only extras, if you can even call them that.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

What happened here? A slam-bang beginning and a solid middle section are not enough to rescue this thriller. Sutherland is properly oily and vile, and Field weeps and screams with zeal, but the story dips too far into predictably to satisfy completely.


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