A down-and-dirty subject gets the velvet glove treatment in The Public Eye. Playing a 1940s tabloid crime photographer (based on w.k. shutterbug Weegee) who yearns for respectability and a little love, Joe Pesci creates an involving character, but almost everything about Howard Franklin's solo directorial debut is muted and moody where it should be bold and brash.

A down-and-dirty subject gets the velvet glove treatment in The Public Eye. Playing a 1940s tabloid crime photographer (based on w.k. shutterbug Weegee) who yearns for respectability and a little love, Joe Pesci creates an involving character, but almost everything about Howard Franklin’s solo directorial debut is muted and moody where it should be bold and brash.

Franklin wrote the screenplay nine years earlier before making a name for himself with scripts to Someone to Watch Over Me, The Name of the Rose and Quick Change, which he co-directed with Bill Murray.

Called in to do a favor for beautiful Kay Levitz (Barbara Hershey), a glamorpuss who has inherited an exclusive nightclub from her wealthy late husband, Bernzy (Pesci) is flattered by her apparent serious interest in his book proposal. As a result, he allows himself to get involved in a power struggle between two N.Y. mob factions when his whole career has been based on a philosophy of not playing favorites.

In all respects, the film looks great, but that’s the main problem. With terrific production design evoking wartime N.Y. (location work was done in Cincinnati and Chicago) and gorgeous lensing, pic approaches physical beauty of a Coen Bros. or David Cronenberg film. Unfortunately, this is entirely counterproductive to the style that would have been appropriate for the tabloid subject matter.

The Public Eye

Production

Universal. Director Howard Franklin; Producer Sue Baden-Powell; Screenplay Howard Franklin; Camera Peter Suschitzky; Editor Evan Lottman; Music Mark Isham; Art Director Marcia Hinds-Johnson

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1992. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Joe Pesci Barbara Hershey Stanley Tucci Jerry Adler Jared Harris Gerry Becker

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