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Film / Eye for an Eye

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Eye for an Eye is a 1996 thriller film directed by John Schlesinger, starring Sally Field, Ed Harris, and Kiefer Sutherland.

Karen McCann (Field) and her husband Mack (Harris) find their happy lives shattered when their 17-year-old daughter Julie is raped and murdered at home by deliveryman Robert Doob (Sutherland) while on the phone with her mother. When Doob is acquitted in court, he begins making overtures at the McCanns' six-year-old daughter Megan while also intimidating Karen, who joins a vigilante group to defend herself.


Eye for an Eye provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: This drama starts with Karen McCann talking with her home alone teenage daughter over the phone when the slime bucket Robert Doob breaks into the house and all Karen can do is listen as Doob rapes her daughter before killing her. And then the scum gets off scot free and threatens her even younger daughter.
  • Artistic License – Law: The undercover agent who threatens Karen with life in prison if she kills Doob. In reality, Karen would probably only get a reduced sentence at the absolute worst, courtesy of an endless range of potential jurors — and even law-enforcement workers — who'd sympathize with her.
  • Asshole Victim: The movie is about a mother who hears her daughter raped and murdered by a grocery deliverer while talking to her on the cell phone, who gets off on a technicality, and decides to kill him.
  • Forced to Watch: When Karen McMann is on the phone with her 17-year-old daughter Julie, she is forced to hear Doob violate and murder her.
  • Off on a Technicality: Karen seeks her own kind of justice on him after he gets off on a technicality. The tagline of the movie is "What do you do when justice fails?" In Real Life, at the very least, the killer's constant making faces at Field would earn him a bunch of "contempt of court" charges.
  • Police are Useless: Not only do they repeatedly fail via Off on a Technicality to stop Doob, but they even put more effort into stopping the vigilante group.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Karen McMann is about to shoot you.
  • Vigilante Man: Karen stumbles onto a conspiracy of Vigilante Men at a support group. They have very specific requirements: They only target killers whose guilt is obvious yet get Off on a Technicality, and they won't make the kill for someone else. Instead, they teach newcomers how to make the hit themselves. Something of a strawman case; the FBI has recognized a pattern of suspicious deaths among acquitted killers and has planted spies in support groups to protect those killers. Fields discovers the spy in time to keep from incriminating herself seriously, but the agent still threatens Fields with life in prison despite being fully aware that the killer she's after has killed again. Ultimately, the FBI is powerless to protect the killer, as Field pulls off the conspiracy's plan perfectly - make herself the killer's next target, then kill him in self-defense.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Doob begins making overtures at Karen's six-year-old daughter Megan.


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