EYE OF THE BEHOLDER(director/writer: Stephan Elliott; screenwriter: Marc Behm (novel); cinematographer: Guy Dufaux; editor: Sue Blainey; cast: Ewan McGregor (Eye), Ashley Judd (Joanna Eris), Ann-Marie Brown (Lucy), Patrick Bergin (Alex), K.D. Lang (Hilary), Jason Priestley (Gary), Genevieve Bujold (Dr. Brault); Runtime: 101; Destination Films; 1999)
“It’s a vile film …”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A beautiful piece of junk, amounting to a spectacle for the eyes only. The film itself couldn’t justify the violence and human depravity shown. This surreal thriller is seen mostly as a travelogue of American cities, involving a beautiful serial killer of men Joanna (Ashley Judd) and a mentally unbalanced Washington-based British Secret Service surveillance agent known as Eye (Ewan McGregor). He follows her to various locations around the country and catches her on computer video taking off her clothes and committing murder, but loses track of reality and begins to think that she might be the daughter that he hasn’t seen for years. He has been mentally unbalanced ever since his wife left him and took his daughter with her about seven years ago. There is no rational payoff to the mystery. The only meeting the two have, is at the film’s end in an Alaskan diner.
It’s a vile film that tries to go down the same road as Coppola’s “The Conversation” and where a number of other morally blurred films about voyeurism have gone. This film aims mostly, perhaps, along the lines of Brian De Palma’s suspenseful works. It works into its story plot devices from a multitude of other films. It dwelt on the grisly violence the woman psychopathic killer commits and offered no valid critical reason to justify all the gore for this pointless story. It is based on the noir novel by Marc Behm and is directed and scripted by Australian Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla/ Queen of the Desert).
Eye is assigned to spy on the son of a British government official. We see Eye by his laptop as he watches the room where the man and woman are in, which conveniently has the shades up. Joanna repeatedly stabs the blindfolded male victim while they are involved in kinky sex, while Eye watches it on the computer screen — acting surprised and aghast at what he sees but, nevertheless, Eye falls in love with Joanna. Eye doesn’t have Joanna arrested because he’s as nutty as a fruit cake himself, having visions and imaginary conversations with his missing daughter which he transfers onto the serial killer. So, Eye decides to tail her and track down her identity, and do everything he can to protect her so that he doesn’t lose her like he lost his daughter.
It becomes cold to watch these unappealing characters go through a number of other killings. The other murders take place as Joanna changes aliases and wigs at each murder stop, taking time to spout her interest in astrology and numerology. One of the murders takes place off camera, of a man drowned by Joanna in a railroad car bathtub. The pregnant woman then goes to San Francisco and is about to marry a wealthy, blind winemaker (Patrick Bergin) she just met; but, this time the jealous Eye doesn’t wait for Joanna to murder. Eye acts first by firing at the potential groom’s chauffeur driven auto with a high-powered telescopic rifle from a bell tower, causing him to die in an auto accident.
Genevieve Bujold shows up as a liberal-minded but misguided reform school psychologist from Boston who treated Joanna in an experimental program and taught her to never reveal herself to any man, to always wear a wig as a disguise, and how it is only the fittest who always survive. Bujold brings up what may be a link to the psychological problems of the agent and the serial killer, as both had fathers who abandoned them as children.
Folksinger k.d. Lang flatly plays a sympathetic agent in Eye’s workplace, who always appears on a laptop screen. Lang’s role consists of telling Eye that she can get fired if she runs the computer check that he wants her to run, which she does anyway after grousing about it. Since little in this film made sense, why should one expect her role to!
Jason Priestley plays a bleach-haired crack user, who is seen as a drifter in Death Valley. Jason viciously beats Joanna before she is rescued by the ever watchful Eye.
After sight-seeing tours of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, Joanna and Eye meet at last in the perfect place for them — the Arctic cold of Alaska. All we get from the story are some cheap thrills and a tease that there is some intellectual message hidden in all the mental gymnastics and gore, but what we really have is a film that failed to get untracked.
REVIEWED ON 1/7/2001 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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