Dumb dips from oppressive to offensive in this Sally Field suspense drama, which actually comes out for vigilantism. How’s that for exploiting public dissatisfaction with the O.J. Simpson verdict? In this Death Wish retread, directed by John Schlesinger — making his own dip from the glory days of Midnight Cowboy to this swill — Field stars as Karen McCann, a working wife and mother on the rampage. Her 17-year-old daughter has been raped and murdered by Robert Doob (a one-note Kiefer Sutherland), a creep who gets off on a technicality. Karen is outraged, especially when Doob harasses her 5-year-old daughter and tells Karen that her eldest girl was “a great fuck.”
The police, represented by detective Joe Denillo (Joe Mantegna), can’t do a thing to help Karen. Neither can her husband (a wasted Ed Harris) nor support therapy. Then, Karen meets a secret society of parents who dish out their own justice, Star Chamber-style, to murderers the system has set free. Karen is soon undergoing her own commando training, stalking Doob and setting him up for the kill.
Field hasn’t looked this ridiculous or overacted so hysterically since Not Without My Daughter, another cheap-jack gloss on real emotional grief. The manipulative script by Amanda Silver (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) and her husband, Rick Jaffa, turns Field into a fem Charlie Bronson. Clever move: We like her, we really like her. When the cops get suspicious, she dares them to prove something. Karen means to hoist the law on its own petard, and we are meant to cheer her on. It’s early in the new year, but I doubt that 1996 will produce a film more unthinkingly insidious than Eye for an Eye.