|Eye of the Beholder
1999 - R - 101 Mins.
|Director: Stephan Elliott
|Producer: Al Clark, Grant Lee, Mark Damon
|Written By: Stephan Elliott
|Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, Jason Priestley, k.d. lang, Patrick Bergin
|Review by: Joe Rickey
“The Eye” (Ewan McGregor) is a highly sought after surveillance expert, known for the meticulous manner in which he conducts his business. During his investigation of what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill contract, he comes across a deadly woman by the name of Joanna, (Ashley Judd) who commits murder after murder; changing disguises so as not to attract the authorities. “The Eye” (Yes, his real name is never learned) refuses to turn her in because he has developed an obtuse fixation with her. He is a man whose life is devoid of relationships after his wife left him without leaving so much as a note, taking their daughter with her. As a way of compensating for his loneliness, in his mind he has fashioned an alternate reality in which he fantasizes having a kinky romantic relationship with the beautiful serial killer. As the film proceeds it becomes ever clearer that there is more to their “relationship” than meets the eye (pun intended).
‘Eye of the Beholder’ has an intriguing set-up and a good cast but does absolutely nothing with any of it. The bizarre relationship at the core of the film borders on sickening; never more so than when “The Eye” masturbates as he, through the use of a peephole, watches Joanna bathe. “The Eye” is an obviously amoral character, one that starts out as a bland, detached individual and quickly degenerates into one excessively unlikable character. He has numerous opportunities to report Joanna to the police but doesn’t do so just because of his own perverse personal needs and wants. Meanwhile, Joanna is painted as an emotionless serial killer much of the time, lacking the necessary personality to engage the viewer.
As far as the performances go, Ewan McGregor is bland and otherwise boring as “The Eye”, suitably perhaps because of all the loss his character has suffered, but dull nonetheless. Ashley Judd also gives a performance that lacks intensity as if she knows that she is in one big dud of a film. At least she gets points for playing the serial killer instead of playing the detective hunting for one as in so many of her other films.
The film also struggles with pacing. After jumping right into the thick of things in the opening moments, one has to endure a lull of far too long before anything else of interest occurs.
About the only thing ‘The Eye of the Beholder’ has going for it is a somewhat unique visual style applied by director Stephan Elliott. He utilizes crooked, off-kilter camera angles and all sorts of filters to drive home the idea that “The Eye” is one mentally unstable person and it works. This technique occasionally borders on overindulgence, but never crosses the line.
You know a film is in trouble when the viewer wants the supposed protagonist to bite the dust. Such is the case with ‘Eye of the Beholder’, an exercise in style over substance that fails to resonate at every turn and ends up instead as nothing more than pointlessly nebulous piffle.