Eye Of The Beholder (2000)
Director: Stephan Elliott
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, Patrick Bergin
Release date: January 28 (US). This replaces the unavailable Isn’t She Great. The Noughties! Ever hopeful did I stride forth into the new Movie Millennium. Ever bewildered did I emerge the other side. May contain irrational cats and spoilers…
A British surveillance expert known only as The Eye is asked to keep tabs on a bloke who happens to pick up a woman who happens to be a vicious killer. The Eye, rather than make his report and move on to another assignment, becomes increasingly obsessed with the murderous woman and begins to tail her around America with his extra-long lens, but not actually, like, stopping her murdering or anything, he just, y’know, watches and, erm…
(THERE WILL NOW BE A 5-MINUTE INTERVAL WHILE WOLF TRIES TO UNSCRAMBLE THE CLOTTED RICE PUDDING IN HIS SKULL. THANK YOU…)
What? The fuck? Was that?
Holy guacamole, Batman. How is this guy, as they say, ‘in the field’? His head is mashed. It’s all well and good ‘Operations’ asking him to ‘come back in’, he should never have been sent out in the first place. Who’s watching the watchers? Based in Washington DC, I think, the British Embassy Internal Investigations Unit, right, is full of cats. Cats, I said. Cats. Is director Stephan Elliott playing metaphorically with ‘cat’s eye’ or was it just a great day for Bolivian sniff? Also, there are old women doddering around the place, so maybe it’s not the British Embassy, just a retirement home for the elderly. And k.d. lang. Yeh, that k.d. lang, the lezzer with the decent tonsils – “Trail of broken hearts, lookin’ back at you…” – good song, that. I used to get her mixed up with Michelle Shocked and If Love Was A Train, another top tune. So, k.d. lang can’t put her neck on the line and cover for The Eye any longer, dammit… but then does. They always do don’t they. She wouldn’t, she’d be onto her superiors… fuck knows who her superiors are… Cats, her superiors are cats, how’s that.
Anyhow, The Eye follows this woman, Joanna Eris (I’m not sure but I think ‘Eris’ is a deity, possibly Roman, doubtless it’ll be pertinent) and she turns out to be a mad knife wielding twat who stabs a victim repeatedly, sobbing in the aftermath; “Merry Christmas, daddy…” The Eye falls for her instantly. He trails her cross-country, like a crazed fan stalking his favourite sleb; she drowns a guy on a train and then she shoots a bent cop who wants a piece of poontang in return for keeping his jaw shut about something or other (I wasn’t listening). The Eye spies it all and so it goes on. It changes tack slightly with a blind bloke, Alex (Patrick Bergin) and this section in particular is tortuous to sit through. Even The Eye becomes exasperated at one point, running up and kicking the shit out of him, shouting; “Open your eyes, you stupid blind bastard, she’s gonna kill yer!” There’s an inference that she won’t – “You can’t see who I really am,” she tells her paramour of why he is ‘Mister Right’ – and in violently halting the imminent marriage of Eris and Alex, The Eye snipers any hope of normality in her life.
So, he peeps away at her with his vast array of gadgetry while she swans around in her undercrackers, quite fetching she is too. But he never drops his kecks and knocks one out. Mind you, that might be difficult when he’s got his 9 year-old daughter Lucy tagging along everywhere. Only he hasn’t, see. She’s a figment of his imagination. His wife took herself and their daughter off to who knows where 8 years ago because ‘the job’ placed too much of a strain on family life. He has quite a few imaginary conversations with Lucy, none of which reveal anything about his character and seem to exist merely to give him someone to talk to otherwise he’d be silent for the duration, except for when he’s begging Hilary (lang) to help him out one last time. The incoherent nature of the writing first has Lucy imploring The Eye not to desert Eris (shit motivation) then threatening to ‘leave’ for good if he goes off gathering info. He goes and Lucy disappears out of the film. Gone. No reason – poof, gone. If it is Elliott’s intention to have The Eye project Lucy onto Eris then it is woefully misjudged; he and Eris are the same age, if he were older then we have a potentially intriguing angle. If one thing works in this whole sorry subplot it is The Eye holding onto a school class photo, not even knowing if the conjured image of Lucy is the face of his daughter.
No matter how sweet and teary-eyed Eris gets, she’s a serial killer. She runs out of luck when she runs into woman-beating junkie Jason Priestley – and it says a lot when the best thing in yer film is Jason fucking Priestley – who’s channelling a bit of Pitt, not in a tree with dinosaurs but circa Fight Club. He knocks the fuck out of her and shoots her up with a needle full of shit… but The Eye intervenes with a knuckle duster to the face before JP can do anymore damage (he has, actually). Then it gets really confusing. He deals with the scumbag in the desert but on his return finds she’s gone, along with his wheels. The Eye traces her to a hospital with Hilary’s help and this is the very last time so don’t bother asking again. A nurse informs him that she’s okay but “… she lost the baby.” Baby? He slips a ring on Eris’s finger while she’s sedated. Next thing, she’s waitressing at a diner and he’s a customer. Obviously she doesn’t know who he is and after some initial reticence on her side they have a chat. From here on in I can’t explain it, you’d have to see it. The conclusion, were it a fantasy within his pea-brain, might have offered at least some explanation. As the film stands, well… there is ambiguity, and then there’s muddled, anger-inducing vague. Yeh, the latter will be you then, Beholder.
Ewan McGregor is having a shocker. Talk about miscast, he is not this bloke. It should’ve been someone older, worn. Elliott picked the wrong Jedi… He never gets in any tight corners, always a step ahead of everyone – yet McGregor never exudes that sense of confidence. It’s like he’s not an agent at all and this is nothing but beginner’s luck. He follows Eris everywhere and is able to bug her room and set up cameras, but we never see how he is able to accomplish this highly technical feat. He wears a red coat to follow her. It’s a very distinctive coat but she never seems to recognise it. I grew to despise Ewan’s coat with a passion. And lest we forget, The Eye is not only an accessory to the murdering; he kills an innocent man… Ashley Judd, whom I like as an actress, certainly fairs better than McGregor. She gives Eris the sense of a woman not travelling from city to city with intent to murder, but hoping to find a safe port in which to hush the venom screaming through her mind. Nevertheless, I don’t feel sorry for her; she’s a psychopath. We’ve seen her lay out a plastic sheet because she knows exactly what she’s going to do to one of her victims and it’s gonna be messy. I won’t be sympathising with her anytime soon. Elliott goes out of his way to try and make us feel sorry for her and rescue his dénouement; the guys she kills are creeps, dad deserted her in a back alley, she lost the baby after getting booted by nasty Priestley. No dice, Stephan.
Patrick Bergin always fixes his attention a few inches above Judd’s head. Do you believe he’s blind? Not really. It’s unlikely he had even the tiniest inkling of the kind of film he was in. Jason Priestley wins the film. And k.d. lang, she can’t do anything significant with the role, not when all she’s required to do is study monitors, wear a headset and steadfastly ignore a worrying number of cats. Genevieve Bujold rocks up as Eris’s one-time mentor, Doctor Brault. From what I gather she works with troubled teenagers, gives them confidence and teaches self-respect. It was Brault who taught Eris to use disguise – never let people see who you are, especially those you don’t wish to. Bujold is classy but it’s merely an expositional role and when her character is reprised near the end for a wordless emotional bond with her former charge there’s little impact. Were Eris innocent, then maybe. But she’s not, she’s a nutter and Brault should’ve shopped her to the cops because who knows what might tip Eris back into ‘killer’ mode.
Really hard to score. I seriously want to ‘Gorilla’ the bastard but I’m not going to. It’s got some style and a hypnotic quirkiness. Just don’t equate style & quirk with good.
It’s having 1 Smiling Cat out of 5
ThereWolf, June 2012