Eye of the Beholder

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Ashley Judd seems to be making a career out of doing crappy thrillers. Admire her for picking a genre and sticking with it, I guess.

First there was the ridiculous “Double Jeopardy”; now it’s the moody, incomprehensible “Eye of the Beholder,” a film that is genuinely unpredictable, but only because nothing in it makes sense. Predicting what will happen next would be like guessing what’s around the corner in a dream: It could be anything, because all rules of logic and reason are vetoed.

Ewan McGregor, all soft-voiced and sweet, plays The Eye, a secret agent working for what appears to be the U.S. government (though he is clearly a foreigner). His surveillance skills have earned him his nickname, and he’s so good at his job that his devotion to it has cost him his wife and daughter. He has visitation rights, though, sort of: He frequently imagines his little girl there with him, giving him advice and helping him with his surveillance work.

It is one of those patriarchal hallucinations that brings about an over-interest in a woman he’s pursuing. She’s Joanna Eris (Ashley Judd), a woman with many disguises, all of which center around wearing a different wig, who is suspected of blackmailing an important guy’s son. The Eye sees her kill someone, and then more people are killed, and all the while, The Eye does little or nothing to stop her. Why? Because his phantom daughter tells him that Joanna is like her, a little girl abandoned who needs a father.

(I’ve prettied it up a bit; it makes even less sense in the movie.)

So The Eye tails Joanna everywhere (she never spots him, despite the bright orange jacket he always wears), always watching but never interfering, until she comes into danger herself, in the form of a wretched-looking Jason Priestley, playing an Alaskan druggie, who beats her up for approximately the same reason that she killed those guys (that is, for no reason, at least not one that the movie is willing to share with us).

Director Stephan Elliot has an interesting style, using snowglobes to move us from one city to another, and shooting the whole thing in a greyish, somber tone. What he can’t seem to do is pull it all together into something cohesive. Is this a murder mystery? A psychological drama? A love story? None of the above? So much happens with so little explanation that the only possible reaction when it’s over is, “What did I just watch?” No point is arrived at, and no one seems to have learned anything.

Except the audience, who has learned not to trust Ashley Judd movies anymore.

C- (; R, a few instances of graphic violence, a brief.)

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