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Red Eye

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 01/05/06 14:27:34

"So dumb I'm surprised McAdams wasn't asked to help land the plane."
1 stars (Sucks)

I do not expect all thrillers to be works of pure genius, but I do expect most of them to be smarter than “Red Eye,” a marvel of idiotic set-ups, asinine plot turns, and ridiculous pay-offs. This is a screenplay so unbelievably bad that not even two very fine young actors and a director known for his knack for suspense can salvage it.

The premise: hot young hotel employee Lisa (Rachel McAdams) is returning home to Miami after her grandmother’s funeral. Trapped in the web of airline travel, she befriends hunky, mysterious Jackson Ripper (Cillian Murphy) and finds him charming, unaware that a name like “Jackson Ripper” is about as subtle as a brick to the skull. (Why not just get it over with and name him Evil McSneakyton? Stabby O’Kidnapper? Willie Killus?)

Anyway. The idea of having a thriller disguised in the first act as a quaint romance of sorts would be clever, except: a) the trailer (which, by the way, somehow contains more thrills in its two minutes than the feature does in ninety) already gave away the surprise, and b) the film is populated with so many outlandishly hackneyed side characters that it’s impossible to focus on the main event. Why, there’s the little old lady who’s not very bright but is so nice to Lisa! Hey, there’s the eleven-year-old girl who’s flying all by herself for the very first time! Look, it’s the cranky rich guy who complains about everything! All we’re missing here is a singing nun, or at least a jive-talking Barbara Billingsley.

Anyway again. It turns out that Bad Guy Q. Villainy is part of an elaborate plot to assassinate a top government official. The movie begs us to accept the idea that this entire plan revolves around a hotel desk manager, who must phone work and order them to movie said top government official to a new, unchecked-by-security-or-Secret-Service room for no real reason, and if she doesn’t, some guy will kill her dad. Oh, and Dastardly J. Scoundrel is required to force her to do this while sitting in the busiest section of the airplane, with a good twenty people in earshot. You’d think he’d at least bother to whisper.

Now, of course none of this is supposed to matter. We’re supposed to be so caught up in the danger of it all - how will Lisa outwit her stalker? - that we’re not supposed to quibble over the finer points. But these finer points are so sloppily handled that it makes no matter how well McAdams and Murphy come across. (For the record, they do the best they can with the ridiculous material, and watching them not drown in all the stupidity showcases their talent. It’s a thankless film, the stupid action thriller that they do in between better projects, just to keep their stars rising. In a few years, they’ll both be superstars, and nobody will bother remembering this lame early effort.)

As for director Wes Craven, well, he sleepwalks through this one enough to provide a serviceable effort, but he never overcomes the script’s faults. In fact, at times, Craven seems to revel in the stupidity. He does well enough in the film’s middle section - the part in which Lisa and Gary Hitler square off on the plane - and while these moments are pretty stupid, at least the movie’s not falling completely apart. Then we move into the third act, where they get off the plane, the action ramps up, and we have a big, dopey guy reacting to the sight of a missile flying right at him (funniest part of the movie, by the way), or we have the Grumbling, Self-Absorbed Hotel Guests finally getting their comeuppance, or we have forty other things happening that suggest the story should’ve stayed on the plane through the whole film. (The Johnny Evil-stalks-Lisa-through-dad’s-house bit is quite the yawnfest.) Craven can’t keep up with everything the script tosses his way, and he eventually gives in, figuring people that like big explosions will have a good time anyway, so why bother trying to make it good?

Maybe I wouldn’t be so hard on “Red Eye” had I not already seen “Flightplan,” another stuck-on-a-plane thriller with more than its fair share of questionable logic. That film got right what “Red Eye” got wrong: its thrills are tight and effective, its characters interesting, its situations increasingly involving. “Red Eye,” on the other hand, relies too heavily on undercooked ideas and laughable developments. It might have talented leads and a capable director, but with a screenplay as rickety as this, even the best would fall straight through.

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