Sally Field's "Eye for an Eye"
That Sally Field. She sure has a heck of a lot of spunk. Years after donning the Nun Propeller to take to the heavens and right wrongs as sister Bertrille, our Sally stood on a table holding a Union sign until everyone turned off his or her sewing machine. And how could we forget the way our Sally braved a barrage of Iranian bad guys, exclaiming, "Not without my daughter!" More recently, she shuffled little Forrest off to school with those wise words, "Stupid is as stupid does." Now Sister Bertrille is back to face the evils of our modern world of cellular phones, traffic jams and violence against women I mean absolutely no sarcasm whatsoever when I say that Eye For Eye provides a pleasing concoction of jaw-clenching suspense and female empowerment. John Schlesinger (who directed Midnight Cowboy, the only X-rated Oscar winner) may have another first here as Eye for an Eye could just be the first major motion picture to incorporate scenes of the O.J. trial as background detail. The choice of detail is cunning: Schlesinger has quickly implied the premise on which this film rests in a passing view of Marcia Clark on the TV. It's a flash card that summons our collective lesson of the trial: the legal system often fails, loopholes prevail and legal gymnastics can conquer fact. The knowledge that bad guys go free makes way for a thoughtful consideration of vigilantism which intensifies the moral conundrum of the film. Suburban mom Karen McCann lives in an ideally large home with her two daughters and her second husband (played by Ed Harris). Everything is peachy keen as the gang prepare for the sixth birthday party of the younger daughter. But her 17-year-old daughter Julie is too good a kid -- so you just know she's gonna get it. In a tour de force of suspense and tension, Talking to her daughter from her car, Sally Field overhears her rape and murder after the girl puts down the phone to let in the delivery man. Sally is stuck in a massive traffic jam as she hears her daughter shriek in terror and pain on the other end of her cellular phone. As she runs through a maze of stalled cars, pleading to stony commuters to call the police, we see flashes of the brutal rape with a painful attention to detail, the smashed Barbie birthday cake, the massive ice sculpture which will be a chilling weapon. Sally Field oozes estrogen as a woman nursing a badly battered uterus. Her performance is, in fact, forceful and commanding and not overly obnoxious. Harris is fine as Mr. Perfect and Joe Mantegna has got the tough guy cop thing down to a T. A beefy Kiefer Sutherland plays the dastardly delivery-boy-cum-murderer who is set free as a bird on a mere technicality. We see that he's rotten through and through as he pours hot coffee on a whimpering pup. Sure, we want to see him dead. Schlesinger's choices are executed with a real finesse. In another stylishly directed and emotionally compelling scene, our Sally sees her surviving daughter standing near a man whose face rings a bell. She envisions him as the delivery man who rung the bell at her home on that fateful day. But when the same fearful image registers in her mind with the very next man she sees, it becomes clear that she cannot help but suspect all men. Her sense of safety has been obliterated. Soon she's attending a support group and stumbles into an underground vigilante ring. Obsessed to the point of trailing her daughter's murderer, Karen cannot rest. Only revenge will satiate our Sally. Unbeknownst to her concerned husband, she embarks in a full-throttle self-empowerment regime that will include pistol lessons, self-defense and karate. Before long Sutherland's sociopath and Field's vengeful mom are engaged in a dangerous game of provocation, intimidation and retaliation. Here is the thinking woman's thriller; a flick which packs a punch and gives pause for healthy ethical bewilderment. And before long, doubting Thomases and Thomasinas will be forgiving Sally her treacle, her penchant for self-righteous roles and even her kitsch factor. Instead, they'll be storming the aisles cheering, "Right on, Sister (Bertrille)!"