Eye for an Eye is a 1996 American psychological thriller film based on Erika Holzer's 1992 novel of the same name. It was directed by John Schlesinger and written by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver.

The film starred Sally Field, Kiefer Sutherland, Ed Harris, Beverly D'Angelo and Joe Mantegna.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Karen McCann (Sally Field) is happily married to Mack (Ed Harris) and has two daughters, 17-year-old Julie (Olivia Burnette) [from Karen's previous marriage] and six-year-old Megan (Alexandra Kyle). She lives in a nice house in Santa Monica, California and has a good job in a museum.

Karen's world is shattered when Julie is violently raped and murdered while Karen listens. Detective Sergeant Joe Denillo (Joe Mantegna) assures Karen there is enough DNA evidence to find and convict the killer. He encourages the McCanns to seek counseling.

At a support group, Karen & Mack meet people in similar circumstances, including Albert and Regina Gratz, Rondi Reed and Sidney Hughes (Philip Baker Hall). During the meeting, Karen overhears Albert talking to Sidney about something which alarms Regina.

The DNA tests reveal the killer, Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland), a delivery man with a criminal record. At the trial, it is clear Doob is guilty, but because the defense did not receive a sample of the DNA evidence, the judge dismisses the case. Karen and Mack are dumbstruck as Doob walks free. Mack furiously attacks Doob, but he is overpowered by guards and Doob walks out unharmed.

Mack is desperate to return to a normal life, but Karen cannot stop thinking of Doob. She finds the apartment where he lives, then keeps detailed records of his movements, stalking him. After observing Doob urinate on a customer's lawn after a delivery she goes to Denillo — but he tells her there's no evidence of intent. Karen attempts to warn the delivery customer, but the woman only speaks Spanish and does not understand her.

Karen later learns that the murderer of the son of a member of her support group has been killed in a drive-by shooting, just days after being released from prison. Angel (Charlayne Woodard) [also in the self-help group] tells Karen the best way to get over her grief is to focus on the good times with her living daughter and Karen realizes she has been so fixated on Doob that Megan has been deprived of her attention.

Meanwhile, Doob has gone to Megan's school and struck up a conversation with the girl during recess. When Karen comes to pick up Megan, Doob deliberately intimidates her. Worried for Megan’s safety, Karen remembers what happened to the killer of her friend's son and approaches Sidney, who admits the drive-by shooting was set up by him and Martin.

Karen demands their help and they agree to find a weapon, train her, and plan the murder, but tell her she has to carry it out. Karen agrees and they begin plotting. She also joins a self-defense class which helps her gain more confidence, helps rekindle her sex life with Mack and improves her relationship with Megan. Karen feels encouraged. Although Martin doubts Karen is capable of murder, Sidney gives her a gun.

The next day, Angel reveals that she is really an undercover FBI Agent investigating vigilante activity. Angel warns Karen not to kill Doob. Karen calls Sidney to tell him she cannot go through with it. However, she soon changes her mind when she learns that the Hispanic customer she tried to warn about Doob has been raped and murdered, in the same way Julie had been.

Karen is so furious, she accuses Denillo of not finding enough evidence & letting Doob go free again. Hearing Doob has again gotten off on a technicality bolsters her resolve. Karen decides that the only way to avenge her daughter's murder and save her family from Doob is to kill him.

Karen sets a trap to lure Doob into her home, so that she can say killing him was self-defense and it works; she shoots Doob dead and calls the police. Denillo arrives and tells Karen that he knows the truth and that she hasn't fooled him, to which she replies, "Prove it." Denillo decides to tell his colleague that it was a "clear case of self-defense". When Mack arrives, he sits beside Karen, holding her hand, knowing what she has done.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Sally Field as Karen McCann
  • Kiefer Sutherland as Robert Doob
  • Ed Harris as Mack McCann
  • Joe Mantegna as Detective Joe Denillo
  • Beverly D'Angelo as Dolly Green
  • Olivia Burnette as Julie McCann
  • Alexandra Kyle as Megan McCann
  • Darrell Larson as Peter Green
  • Charlayne Woodard as Angel Kosinsky
  • Philip Baker Hall as Sidney Hughes
  • William Mesnik as Albert Gratz
  • Rondi Reed as Regina Gratz
  • Keith David as Martin
  • Donal Logue as Tony
  • Grand L. Bush as Tyrone
  • Armin Shimerman as Judge Arthur Younger
  • Nicholas Cascone as District Attorney Howard Bolinger
  • Ross Bagley as Sean Kosinsky
  • Cynthia Rothrock as Tina

Production[edit | edit source]

Jamie Lee Curtis was originally cast in the film as Karen Newman, but she had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with filming the movie "House Arrest."

Reception[edit | edit source]

Box Office[edit | edit source]

"Eye for an Eye" debuted at #3 at the box office, grossing $6,968,044 during its opening weekend, ranking behind films 12 Monkeys and Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.

Critical Reception[edit | edit source]

"Eye for an Eye" holds an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on thirty-six reviews.

Roger Ebert gave the film one star, saying, "Eye for an Eye is a particularly nasty little example of audience manipulation leading to a conclusion that, had I accepted it, would have left me feeling unclean. It's about an ordinary woman who is led to seek blood revenge, in a plot where the deck is stacked so blatantly it's shameless. It's ironic that this movie is being released at the same time as "Dead Man Walking." Both are about killers and their victims, and both are, in a way, about the death penalty. "Dead Man Walking" challenges us to deal with a wide range of ethical and moral issues. "Eye for an Eye" cynically blinkers us, excluding morality as much as it can, to service an exploitation plot."

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers critiqued Sally Field's performance in the film, saying, "Field hasn't looked this ridiculous or overacted so hysterically since Not Without My Daughter, another cheap-jack gloss on real emotional grief."

Peter Stack from the San Francisco Chronicle said the film was "well acted, well crafted and might have been a truly searing drama if it weren't so simplistic, pat and predictable."

Theatrical Trailer[edit | edit source]


Eye for an Eye (1996) Trailer

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