`Eye' only deserves a cold stare

Review: In the fatuous and ponderous `Eye of the Beholder,' stars Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd squander their talent and theatergoers' goodwill. How low can they go?

January 28, 2000|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

"Eye of the Beholder" is supposed to raise questions about obsession, voyeurism and desire in a high-tech world, but the only question it poses successfully is this: When do two perfectly appealing actors like Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd finally spend all of their personal capital with audiences by appearing in horrible movies?

McGregor has won filmgoers over in such films as "Shallow Grave," "Trainspotting" and "Little Voice." But then he blows it by lending his imprimatur to trash like "Nightwatch," "The Phantom Menace" and "Rogue Trader," a made-for-TV movie on Cinemax. Likewise, Ashley Judd made a smashing debut in the quietly powerful "Ruby in Paradise" and did good work in Michael Mann's "Heat." So how to explain "Double Jeopardy" and "Kiss the Girls"?

Money, I guess.

Let's hope McGregor and Judd made a bundle for "Eye of the Beholder," a hackneyed psycho-sexual thriller with enough awkwardly executed Hitchcock references to qualify as a bad DePalma knock-off.

The story of a British intelligence agent (McGregor) who falls in love with a beautiful murderess (Judd), this tired, muddled production is too fatuous to qualify as contemporary noir and too ponderous to qualify as camp.

Directed with a surfeit of cloying surface style by Stephan Elliott ("The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert"), "Eye of the Beholder" features a stiff performance by k.d. lang as McGregor's long-suffering assistant (picture a cyber-age Moneypenny) and a bombastic electronic score that invests the protagonist's every move with ersatz importance.

However, nothing he does is important, even though he bounces from Washington to Pittsburgh to New York to Boston to San Francisco to Chicago to do it. (All of these cities are played in the film by Montreal, which might explain how train passengers disembark into an open-air terminal in New York.)

"Eye of the Beholder" is no beauty, and with one more bummer like this one on their resumes, Judd and McGregor are running dangerously low on goodwill.

`Eye of the Beholder'

Starring Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, k.d. lang, Patrick Bergin

Directed by Stephan Elliott

Rated R (some strong violence, sexuality, language and brief drug content) Running time 109 minutes

Released by Destination Films

Sun score *

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