Spare, elegant, and harrowing, this trickily plotted tale of murder within the desolation of small-town Oklahoma attains a disturbing power that can earn comparison with those true-life novels of American brutality, In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song. In the fading oil town of Kingfisher, a Bible Belt community that looks as if it’s been abandoned by God, Ainsley (Martha Plimpton), a sweet, dim, desperately lonely young woman who flips burgers at the local diner, corresponds with Jack (Kevin Anderson), an incarcerated criminal she has never met. He has found religion in prison, and when he shows up, tender and chivalrous, eager to mend his ways and begin a family, they agree to marry. Meanwhile, the local sheriff (Hal Holbrook) interrogates Tommy (Nick Stahl), a glassy-eyed 14-year-old who has been found mysteriously covered in blood. The talented Plimpton has never been this alive on screen — she makes Ainsley’s very ignorance complex and alluring — and Anderson creates what may be the most vividly scary and authentic portrait of a sociopathic ex-con since Dustin Hoffman in Straight Time. His Jack embraces faith only to turn it into a form of violence — he’s like a fascist Promise Keeper. Written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson, Eye of God never quite delivers the catharsis its time-tripping narrative hints at, but it’s an original and gripping achievement. A-
Genre: Drama; Starring: Kevin Anderson, Hal Holbrook, Tim Blake Nelson, Mary Kay Place, Martha Plimpton, Nick Stahl, Chris Freihofer, Woody Watson; Director: Tim Blake Nelson; Author: Tim Blake Nelson; Producer (group): Cyclone Productions, Minnow Pictures; MPAA Rating: R; Distributor: Castle Hill Productions, Peachtree Entertainment
Posted October 31 1997 — 12:00 AM EST
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