Sally Field stars as Karen McCann, a middle-aged, middle-class woman whose teenage daughter, Julie (Olivia Burnette) is raped and killed by an intruder in a particularly horrifying scene early in the movie.
Julie cries for help and Karen actually hears the attack over the telephone – and then tries to race home, gets stuck in traffic and is trapped in a nightmare scene where other drivers refuse her request to phone the police for her. She arrives home to a crime scene.
Karen is shattered and turns for comfort to her husband, Mack (Ed Harris) and their young daughter, Megan (Alexandra Kyle). Meanwhile, a smart cop (Joe Mantegna) quickly catches a suspect named Doob (Kiefer Sutherland).
All the evidence points to him, even the DNA and semen samples. But Doob gets off on a stupid technicality because the DAs office screws up, and Karen grows obsessed.
She joins a support group for survivors (their motto: “You show me your heartbreak and I’ll show you mine”), and through them, she is introduced into a shadowy network of those who have chosen to take the law into their own hands.
She trails Doob. He is a mean, nasty, brutish man and when he becomes aware she is following him, he visits a playground at her 6-year-old daughter’s school and terrorises the little girl.
Karen goes ballistic, turns to her group’s secret advisers for help, buys a weapon and takes shooting and martial arts lessons.
Meanwhile, we watch through the film’s omnipotent point of view as Doob assaults and murders another victim, complete with shredded dress, breasts akimbo and blood flying everywhere.
Eye for an Eye pits the haves against the have-nots without the slightest trace of irony or insight – the good guys here are oh-so-good and the bad guys are oh-so-bad – and the laziness of the story (which goes precisely where you think it will) overshadows the stylistic virtuosity of John Schlesinger’s direction.
It’s basically Dirty Harry or Death Wish in drag, relinquishing all claims to serious purpose by turning the viewing audience into a kangaroo court.
Jamie Lee Curtis was originally cast as Karen McCann but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
Detective Sergeant Denillo
Philip Baker Hall