Eye for an Eye: John Travolta in an early contender for turkey of the year

Film review: A militantly awful misuse of good actors who really don’t need the money

Eye for an Eye
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Director: George Gallo, Francesco Cinquemani
Cert: Club
Genre: Crime
Starring: John Travolta, Morgan Freeman, Famke Janssen, Kat Graham, Peter Stormare, Brendan Fraser, Ella Bleu Travolta
Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins

There is one tiny shred of good news – small enough to frustrate all but the most powerful electron microscope – to relate about this militantly awful misuse of John Travolta, Morgan Freeman and a dozen other good actors who really don’t need the money. It is the sort of private-eye drama they just don’t make any more. You are as likely to encounter such a film as you are a siege catapult or a witch-dunking. So, it is nice that the dreadful thing exists. Maybe. Perhaps. Not that anybody should be made to watch it.

Originally titled The Poison Rose, the film, which somehow enjoyed the attention of two directors, begins with flat hardboiled voiceover and an ill-judged allusion to a much, much, much (we need scientific notation to properly tabulate the required “muches” here) better film in the same genre.

“My name is Carson Phillips,” Travolta intones to a set that suggests the office used by Sam Silvermint in a well-remembered Irish commercial. A “dame” arrives to complain about a missing person, but, before embarking for Texas, Carson has to do something about his pesky cat.

Cat? Are you trying to be The Long Goodbye. I knew the Long Goodbye. I worked with The Long Goodbye. You, sir, are no The Long Goodbye (with apologies to Lloyd Bentsen’s 1988 vice-presidential campaign).

Our hero travels to Galveston – his own home town – and gets caught up in a conspiracy involving oil, football and mental health. The overwhelming impression is that nobody is making even the slightest effort. Our story is set in 1978, but, though Travolta wears pants with slightly baggy bottoms, nothing else would point you to the Carter era. The lead hasn’t bothered to shave off his post-millennial beard. A musician in a casino sings a type of electronically underscored pop you wouldn’t hear at such a venue for another two decades. And so on.

Never exactly a ball of fire, Freeman delivers his lines with the urgency of a man reciting the alphabet to test a live microphone. Famke Janssen, Robert Patrick and Peter Stormare all look to be biding their time until being released to the pastry cart.

Speaking of which, we should, at least, let Brendan Fraser off the hook. A larger gentleman than he once was (fair enough; few of us can say otherwise), the former George of the Jungle camps up his cameo with the gusto of a tipsy clown at a children’s birthday party. More power to him. It’s good to know Eye for an Eye brought joy into at least one person’s life.

An early contender for turkey of the year.

On digital platforms from February 5th