'Red Eye' makes the eyes glaze over

Staff WriterAugust 19, 2005 

Cillian Murphy and Rachel McAdams can't generate suspense where none exists in the script.

Wes Craven must be hard up for cash.

That would explain why he would crank out what could go down as the most tedious "thriller" of all time.

"Red Eye" throws away Craven's strengths, and leaves ... well, not much. Craven shuns the campy drama that fueled chewing gum-faced Freddy Krueger and the "Scream" franchise, his most successful films, for an unbelievable plot free of any supernatural interference.

On a dark and stormy night in Dallas, fresh-faced hotel manager Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is late. Her flight to Florida has been delayed so she's waiting it out with her iPod and Dr. Phil self-help book.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Defense, played by a leather-faced Jack Scalia, and his family are on their way to the fancy-pants resort Lisa manages in Miami. While coordinating the anxious hotel staff and reassuring her dad (Brian Cox) that she's fine, Lisa bumps into tall and handsome Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy).

Hypnotized by his sky-blue eyes and the promise of nachos, Lisa goes straight to Def-Con Flirt. This could be the start of a lame and nauseating romance flick. But once in the air, Jackson reveals his terribly hackneyed and boring secret.

He's a cute mercenary killer who wants to rub out the Deputy Secretary, and only Lisa can put Mr. Homeland in reach of Jackson's murder-for-hire buddies. If she doesn't make the call, her empty nester dad will be slashed up by a skilled, but not as attractive, mercenary killer.

Lisa must choose between Dad and the Deputy Secretary.

Cue the minor-key violin strings.

After the forced tension of the flight and the ridiculous conclusion, all that's left is to figure out whose fault the movie was.

Along with Craven, screen-writer Carl Ellsworth must share some of the blame. He comes to "Red Eye," his first feature, after writing stints at "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" and "Xena, Warrior Princess." Thus qualified to pen strong women, Ellsworth spackles together Lisa with bits of cliched "never-again" trauma pulled straight from a rejected Lifetime script.

Craven's direction didn't help. Murphy should have been allowed to play up the nuanced creepiness he oozed in "Batman Begins" or the gorier parts of "28 Days Later." Instead, it appears, Craven must have instructed Murphy to grimace intensely for the length of the movie.

To call the characters one-dimensional would be generous.

You have to feel for Murphy and Cox. The only acting Cox is allowed to do is apply "Just for Men," brown hair-dye on his gray locks and fall asleep in an easy chair. McAdams, fresh from playing a character with all the depth of a J.Crew model in "Wedding Crashers," has matured into Ann Taylor mode. Outside of the wardrobe change, her character has changed little from that film to this.

It's not shaping up to be Craven's year, with "Red Eye" headed for the same slag pile where his lame werewolf flick "Cursed" is languishing. If he's really this strapped for cash, someone should tell him to hire a better broker -- or at least a decent screenwriter.

Staff writer Sam LaGrone can be reached at 836-4951 or slagrone@newsobserver.com.

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