This muddled revenge melodrama is a B movie that somehow won the lottery and got an A-movie cast and director.
Sally Field toplines to good effect as Karen McCann, the mother of a lovely teenage girl who is viciously raped and murdered in her own living room by a grinning psychopath named Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland). Unfortunately, the psycho has a great lawyer.
Mack McCann (Ed Harris), the victim’s stepfather, manages to sublimate his rage and frustration, but Karen is neither willing nor able. At first, she follows Doob, maintaining a surveillance like some TV detective. In time, she begins to notice that, in her support group for parents of murdered children, a couple of the members (Philip Baker Hall, Keith David) may be channeling their rage into retribution, prompting her to think that vigilantism may not be such a bad idea.
Vet director John Schlesinger gives Eye for an Eye enough tension and immediacy – most of the time, at least – to make this worth a viewer’s time. In most other respects, however, the screenplay, taken from a novel by Erika Holzer, is as simplistic as the worst kind of talk-radio diatribe. Doob isn’t merely a career criminal or a maladjusted sex offender – he is the Anti-christ. Schlesinger even includes a scene where Doob pours hot coffee on a stray dog. No kidding.
When Karen angrily upbraids Joe Denillo, the tough but honorable cop played by Joe Mantegna, for what she sees as his impotence, even bleeding-heart liberals in the audience may be screaming, ‘Right on!’ To partially appease those liberals, and to keep from unduly ruffling anyone else’s feathers, the filmmakers work overtime to cover all their bases. The movie is intended to appeal to the broadest constituency possible.
Sutherland gives a one-note performance in a one-dimensional role, but that note is sustained with impressive efficiency.