The Eye of the Beholder (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Ashley Judd is a serial murderer. Ewan MacGregor is a surveillance agent, "The Eye", who sees her commit a murder while he is working on a case. Instead of turning her in, he starts to follow her full time. At first we wonder if he is a mere voyeur, but it is more than that. She meets a need in his life.

Many years earlier, he lost his wife and his daughter. The wife took the girl away. The girl woke up one day and had no daddy. The thought of his missing daughter haunts him continuously. He still buys souvenirs for her. She seems to appear to him in physical form and they hold down conversations. He has spent seven years this way, brooding, and bereft of human contact except through a computer screen. Clearly, by any reasonable definition, he is mad.


Ashley Judd shows breasts disposing of a body in the rain, and in a bath scene. She also shows rear nudity and distant full frontal in the rain scene.
The killer's (Judd) psychological problems were generated by a single incident in her childhood when, on Christmas Day and without warning or explanation, her father abandoned her in a dark alley and doomed her to a life as an orphan, never understanding why it all happened. As Ewan says to her, late in the film, when they finally meet, "I'm a daddy looking for a lost girl, and you're a lost girl looking for a daddy".

So he spends the entire film shadowing her through exotic and beautiful locales, removing the evidence whenever she commits a crime, causing a distraction or creating an escape route whenever the law's noose becomes too tight around her, protecting her when she is in other danger, and even killing two men, one of them an innocent and sympathetic character killed out of jealousy. Judd is not really aware of his presence, although she later acknowledges that she must have had a guardian angel.

This movie generated powerful extremes of opinion. IMDb viewers tended to rate it very high or very low. Those who hated it disparaged its incoherent structure, plot holes, and ambiguous ending.

In my mind, the biggest weakness of the film is that the characters are too aloof from our involvement. MacGregor is a hopeless dweeb to begin with, and we lose any empathy for him when his jealous gunshots cause the death of a blind man. Judd - well, she's cold, unapproachable, and a serial killer, so it's not like we're going to dig for her secret the way we would for Ilsa's in Casablanca. After all, Ilsa left our hero and made him bitter, but this lady would have killed him and gutted him like a deer. So we, the viewers, never get drawn into the story in the way we would if there were a sympathetic protagonist.

Those who loved it praised its sheer cinematic quality, its imagery, and its acting. In a sense, both points of view are justified. The director displays some dazzling visuals of spectacular locales, and continuously challenging minimalist explanation shots that force your mind into the fray. You know what I mean. Two feet are seen under a bench in a train station - between them appears a paper. You fill in the blanks. That sort of thing. That's a lot of style, but no substance. We just watch it as an intellectual film study exercise in style. Not everyone will enjoy that, because the movie experience is generally about the heart more than the mind.

I don't agree with the people who criticized the incoherence and plot holes. If it sometimes makes no sense, well, so be it because we see much of the movie through The Eye's P.O.V., and he's as mad as a hatter, so we're going to see a skewed view. I don't think you're supposed to think of it as a thriller, but as a bizarre Electra love story between a madman and a psychotic serial killer.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1, enhanced for 16x9 screens. Excellent transfer. Also a standard 4:3 version.

  • Full-length director commentary

  • Making-of featurette

  • The usual production notes, trailer ...

Although I was fascinated by it, I can't recommend it because most moviegoers hated it, and the vast majority of critics also despised it, so there are great odds against your liking it, no matter what I say. To be fair, It appears that it just struck some kind of chord with me, and is actually a poor movie. Perhaps this one is not a winner but, mark my words, director Stephen Elliott ("Priscilla, Queen of the Desert") will have a monster mainstream hit someday. He's only 36, and he has talent up the wazoo.

This a the second film made from Marc Rehm's 1980 novel, "The Eye of the Beholder." The first was a 1983 French film called Mortelle randonnée.


Eye of the Beholder (1999) features Ewan McGregor as a British detective, and Ashley Judd as the woman he is assigned to watch. He is trying to get over the disappearance of his wife and daughter who evidently left him, although we see him talking to the daughter and buying things for her through the first half of the film. Judd, it turns out, is a serial killer. So what does our 00-Idiot do about it? He decides to become her guardian angel and protect her from law enforcement, which is suppose to atone in some way for losing his wife and daughter.

If that sounds even remotely like a credible plot or even a plausible excuse for a film, you are even sicker than the director. I watched the entire thing, and it doesn't ever get any better than the weak premise. As a matter of fact. they committed another unpardonable sin in showing an aged Genevieve Bujold not looking at all the way I would prefer to remember her.

The film is professionally made from a technical aspect, but has to be one of the worst screenplays of all time, and lacks character development even for the characters it includes. D-.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: less than two stars. Berardinelli 1.5/4, Apollo 50.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.4, Apollo users 38/100. Pretty much everyone but me hated this film.
  • With their dollars ... it wasn't a smash hit, but did OK. Made for $15 million, it grossed $16 million domestically, more overseas.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C- (Scoop) to D- (Tuna)

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