Red Eye

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Spare, unadorned and competent is “Red Eye,” a compact thriller about an innocent woman being used as a pawn in a deadly game of cat and mouse, or something like that. It’s barely 80 minutes long, it avoids extraneous characters, or even unnecessary traits for the characters it does have, and it has a scene where a female victim stabs her attacker in the neck with a pen. You want a thriller should give you more than that?!

Directed by alleged horror-master Wes Craven, there’s nothing supernatural in “Red Eye,” unless you count Cillian Murphy and Brian Cox struggling against nature to achieve American accents. It is, rather, a straightforward suspense film about Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams), manager of Miami’s Lux Atlantic Resort and an expert in customer satisfaction. While returning to Miami from Dallas, she is befriended by a handsome stranger named Jackson Rippner (Murphy) who is evasive about his line of work.

Once they’re airborne, with Jackson sitting next to Lisa, he tells her what’s up. The deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is about to arrive for a stay at Lisa’s hotel. Lisa is to call from the plane and have him moved to a different suite, one specified by Jackson, where it will presumably be easier to kill him. If Lisa does not do this, Jackson will tell the hitman currently stationed outside Lisa’s father’s house to go inside and kill him.

There are all the usual shenanigans while they’re still in the air, with Lisa making desperate attempts to deceive or disable Jackson or to alert authorities to her plight. None of it adds up to much suspense; we’re too smart to believe everything will be resolved and the film will end with Lisa and Jackson still cruising at 30,000 feet.

Sure enough, the plane lands and that’s when the actual excitement begins. Lisa’s dad (Cox) is in danger, as is the deputy secretary of Homeland Security, as are all the guests at the Lux Atlantic. And only Lisa can save the day!!!!!!!!!!

This isn’t much better than his recent horror efforts, but Craven (working from a script by Carl Ellsworth) has an admirable work ethic, cranking through the movie’s standard twists and turns without ever losing pace. There is not a single bit of the plot that is not predictable, but there is always a giddy thrill in seeing someone pop out from behind something where you had not expected him to be.

C+ (1 hr., 25 min.; PG-13, a little profanity, some average violence -- altogether pretty tame, really.)

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