The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Saturday, January 13, 1996             TAG: 9601130091
TYPE: Movie Review 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   68 lines


``EYE FOR AN EYE'' is lifted a bit above mere TV-movie status by the presence of its notably committed leading lady Sally Field, and its over-talented, Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger. They both work hard to try to hide the fact that this is just another vigilante movie.

While it may be ``Death Wishy,'' it is surely not wishy-washy.

The simplistic script, written by the same team who created the successfully exploitative ``Hand That Rocked the Cradle,'' is nothing if not straightforward. It initially displays an unspeakably heinous crime and then sets us up to spend the rest of the movie hoping that the criminal will be punished. It is a movie ploy that never seems to fail - especially in these times in which people are more and more frustrated by the fact they have to live behind bolted doors and are afraid to go out at night.

The opening scene - the set-up to make us writhe with anger - is as disturbing as anything recently on screen. Field, as an upper-class working mother, hears her 17-year-old daughter being raped and murdered while she listens, helplessly, by cellular phone. No one can make a tear more heart-wrenching than Sally Field. Her vulnerability, combined with an inner reserve of perky spunk, is something we never tire of watching.

The other characters get short shrift. Ed Harris is her supportive second husband. Beverly D'Angelo is saddled with the routine role of ``best friend.'' Joe Mantegna plays an unusually inert and level-headed cop who frustrates mom-Sally with his inability to bring the murderer to justice.

The killer is played with enough menace to make us rise from our seats in indignation. Kiefer Sutherland, complete with tattoos, is the soft-spoken animal who laughs with arrogance when he is released, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (The producers deny that they're capitalizing on the O.J. Simpson case, claiming that the movie was in production well before the Simpson verdict. Nonetheless, they will benefit from ticketbuyers who feel some frustration, one way or the other, about the justice system.)

Field intially joins a support group of other parents whose children have been victims of violence. Next, she finds a secret vigilante group which is designed to deliver ``justice.'' Since this crowd is being pursued by the FBI, she takes a gun into her own hand.

The set-up is easy to manipulate. We are merely encouraged to put aside our more civilized instincts and, from the safety of our movie seats, hope that she will blow him away. The movie's ending, though, is particularly weak, sinking to the usual last-minute histronics.

John Schlesinger is one of the finest directors of our movie past, winning the Oscar for the classic ``Midnight Cowboy.'' It is sad that this is all he apparently can find to direct.

``Eye for an Eye'' isn't much, but it is clear that its star and its director worked hard to hide the fact. MEMO: MOVIE REVIEW

``Eye for an Eye''

Cast: Sally Field, Kiefer Sutherland, Ed Harris, Beverly D'Angelo,

Joe Mantegna

Director: John Schlesinger

Screenplay: Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa

MPAA rating: R (a brutal rape, violent murder)

Mal's rating: two and a half stars

Locations: Cinemark, Regal Cinemas Greenbrier, Chesapeake; Janaf,

Main Gate, Norfolk; Columbus, Kemps River, Lynnhaven Mall, Virginia

Beach. by CNB