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Eye of the Beholder

A self-consciously arty thriller, equal parts Black Widow and The Conversation, that's as meticulously deranged as its paranoid protagonist. A burned-out surveillance expert (Ewan McGregor) known only as "The Eye" stumbles onto the trail of an especially lethal femme fatale (Ashley Judd) while investigating a routine case. The Eye is already a shell of a man, devastated by his wife's abandonment many years earlier; not only did she vanish without a trace or a word of explanation, but she took their little girl. Somehow the violent femme (who acquires and sheds names, wigs and outfits with terrifying speed) and the missing daughter get conflated in the Eye's troubled mind. He can't bear to arrest her, even after he realizes murder is her way of life, so he follows her across country, hovering protectively in the shadows. Marc Behm's cult novel takes film noir cliches — erotic fixation, lethal dames, world-weary detectives — and pushes them to their absolute extremes, leeching out the veiled eroticism and replacing it with ice-cold alienation. Director Stephen Elliott effectively evokes the Eye's dislocated state of mind through exaggerated sound design, odd camera angles and movements and images that must be dreams or hallucinations but are photographed as though they were absolutely real. But he doesn't make the story resonate emotionally, perhaps because the fact that Judd and McGregor are obviously about the same age obscures the warped father/daughter dynamic (the novel's Eye is middle-aged, old enough for his missing daughter to be in her 20s). The movie's assets include an insinuating performance by Genevieve Bujold, who plays the creepiest shrink since Hannibal Lecter. One-time TV heartthrob Jason Priestly has a fine old time playing a bleach-blond sadist, while k.d. lang languishes in the role of the Eye's helpful co-worker.