“Eye For An Eye (1996)”
Music By James Newton Howard Soundtrack Album Review
La-La Land Records/22 Tracks/Disc Time: 57:14
The film “Eye For An Eye” which is based on the book by Erika Holzer and directed by the late John Schlesinger stars Oscar Winner Sally Field as Karen McCann, a hardworking and happily married mother whose eldest daughter is raped and murdered whilst on the phone with her. When the case against Robert Doob (a chilling Kiefer Sutherland, “24”), the perpetrator is released and his case dismissed because of a technicality. Outraged, she starts following him and track all of his activities hoping to catching doing something to get him arrested on. Doob finds out that Karen is following him, threatens to do something to her youngest daughter. She then seeks help from a group of vigilantes connected to a support group to exact her revenge on him and get the justice she was robbed of. Soon she starts to encounter problems with her loving and faithful husband Mack (Oscar Nominee Ed Harris, “The Rock”) and a stern warning from a friend of the support group that may get her into serious trouble. The film was a surprise hit when it was released despite bad reviews all around but many enjoyed it’s comparisons to Charles Bronson’s classic film, “Death Wish.”
The film required a composer who was able to balance the film’s dramatic moments and the thriller aspects of it. Schlesinger found that in Oscar nominee James Newton Howard who was in the middle of his strongest period of his career with scores such as “Wyatt Earp”, “The Fugitive”, “Waterworld”, “Outbreak”, “French Kiss”, and “Primal Fear” amongst the group that made him the most sought after composer alongside Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and James Horner. The score to “Eye For An Eye” is very strong in both areas and surprisingly restrained at times, which foreshadows touches of the dark material for Sally Field’s obsession with revenge in the film. This score actually is a precursor to his underrated score to the remake of “A Perfect Murder” two years later.
Starting off with the “Main Title”, Howard establishes a seemingly innocent and tranquil world of the McCann family with lovely keyboard which segues into a waltz like motif for the family that underneath is a dark undercurrent admist the pastorial world they live in and “Birthday Preparations” which follows the opening track continues the lovely material established in the opening which is rekindled later in “Mack Arrives Home”. He then shifts gears into the world of Doob where Howard unleashes some very dark and violent material starting with “Rape And Murder” which is a percussive and brass heavy track with bursts of harsh sounds and thumping relentless percussion and followed by solid highlights such as “Tar Pits/Private Meeting”, “Courtroom/Case Dismissed/Still In Bed” and “Following Doob/Marking Territory”
Howard wrote some really cool action suspense licks that are out of his action score ovure like “The Fugitive” and “The Package” for example. They are highlighted by “We Can Help You”, “Training Montage/Karen Is Followed” which features a thumping electronic beat augmented by dark string work and growling brass, “Trashing Apartment” which features strings, aggressive brass and percussion backed by a piano that just sets up the tense mood that goes from tranquil to just a burst of harsh aggressive thriller material that is followed by the even more propulsive “Setup/It’s Very Personal” track that actually foreshadows his excellent material to “A Perfect Murder”
La-La Land’s premiere release of this score is a surprisingly strong one and a revelation for me personally since I hadn’t seen the film in close to twenty years and hadn’t remembered the score that Howard had scored it. It is a score that works and it somewhat of a distant cousin to his Oscar nominated “The Fugitive” and the Sean Connery thriller, “Just Cause”, which is very effective here and there is plenty about this score to like. “Eye For An Eye” is one that will please James Newton Howard’s fans as well as those discovering him now. Thumbs up way up.