Film: Also showing: The worm turns

EYE FOR AN EYE John Schlesinger (18) A MONTH BY THE LAKE John Irvin (PG) MAN OF THE YEAR Dirk Shafer (15) MABOROSI Kore-eda Hirokazu (nc) GLASTONBURY THE MOVIE Robin Mahoney / Matthew Salkeld / William Beaton (15)

"What do you do when justice fails you?" screams the poster for the new film by John Schlesinger. The smugly unequivocal rejoinder is delivered by the film's title, Eye for an Eye. Sally Field, you may be surprised to learn, is the Old Testament-style executioner in this simplistic story of a worm who turns. The movie shares its premise and blood-lust with Death Wish, and Field is its Charles Bronson: an unassuming nobody who becomes defined and empowered by a quest for retribution.

She plays Karen McCann, a neurotic mother whose teenage daughter is raped and murdered at the family home. Karen is in the middle of a telephone call to the girl when the attacker breaks in: wedged in a traffic jam, she is powerless to do anything but listen, paralysed, to her daughter's tortured cries. The fact that this grim trick has been lifted from Mad Max should immediately alert you to Eye for an Eye's exploitative bent.

But the film-makers still aren't convinced that this ordeal will prove sufficiently horrendous, so the atrocity is embroidered with details of excessive emotional sadism. For instance, the girl wouldn't have been attacked had she not skipped school to organise her kid sister's birthday party, one of those acts of desperate selflessness which, in movies, can only ever result in violent death. Later in the film, a woman is bludgeoned after leaving her door ajar as she fusses around for the delivery man's tip - another act of generosity rewarded with violence. You wait to discover that these victims spent every spare hour working for Meals on Wheels, or only had one kidney.

Soon, the killer is caught. But Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland) is lucky enough to be up against an inept prosecution, and despite being positively identified by blood samples, he is quickly released on a technicality. Which is when Karen decides that the only way to get something done is to do it yourself.

Field is convincingly jittery, but hers is a one-size-fits-all neurosis, and it's hard to discern any differences in shading between her worrying about the delivery of an ice sculpture, and fretting when Doob ingratiates himself with her remaining daughter. Field has a single dynamic scene, making aggressive love with her husband (Ed Harris) after her first clandestine visit to a shooting range, when merely entertaining the notion of violence has jump-started her libido, like Michael Caine in A Shock to the System. But Schlesinger's airless direction forbids any ambiguity, so that the movie seems to exist for no other reason than to blow a raspberry at Dead Man Walking.

It's really too much that Sutherland, with his greased hair and penetrative white-trash leer, resembles Sean Penn from Tim Robbins's film. This killer, however, gets to meet death without redemption, defaming Field's daughter even as he is about to bite the bullet. Which is Schlesinger's way of saying that some people are good, while others are irredeemably evil. As a moralist, he's a real loser. But as a film-maker, he's emerged a winner.

In the calm before the storm that will be the Second World War, a vivacious spinster named Miss Bentley (Vanessa Redgrave) is spending A Month by the Lake - Lake Como, that is, its whispering waters standing patiently beyond the breakfast patio where Miss Bentley will first flirt with the buffoonish Major Wilshaw (Edward Fox). He is enticed by her, though he sulks like an infant when this gangling daddy-longlegs of a woman thrashes him on the tennis court.

But their affections remain agonisingly muted, at least until the emergence of other parties: Vittorio (Allesandro Gassman), a comely young blade who notices that Miss Bentley's body is as brisk as her mind; and the American nanny Miss Beaumont (Uma Thurman), who leads the Major a demeaning dance.

John Irvin shoots his film of HE Bates's novella very plainly, resisting the temptation to linger over the scenery and instead focusing on the majesty of his actors. He has elicited tremendous musicality from them, especially Redgrave, who is ripe and rich with energy. When she speaks, she plunges into her words, thrusting her body forward, and surrendering silly bobs of the head, and absent-minded twirls. It's a boundlessly sensual performance, daring, feral, almost foolish. The scene where she rebuffs Vittorio may be one of the most startling in her career, a collision of obstinacy and capriciousness, revealing a delight in her own sexual power but a defiant refusal to be flattered by others' reactions to it. Have a cold shower prepared for when the picture is over.

Man of the Year is a movie about deception and performance. It is, in itself, deceitful. Its writer and director, Dirk Shafer, is also its subject, a Playgirl hunk picked to be the magazine's "Man of the Year". Shafer is paraded on TV chat shows, distinguished from the rest of the scene's baby-oiled, be-thonged meat-heads by his comparatively sharp wit. And by a secret that demands guile: he's gay.

Shafer creates an uneasy, disingenuous stew of fact and fiction, in which real participants in the story play themselves alongside actors, the whole piece tied together by a knowing script. The film pretends to explore the struggle between Shafer's professional and personal sexualities. But this theme is handled with far less dexterity than the disparities between art and life. As with In Bed with Madonna, you're never sure when you're being duped. It's refreshing to be wrong-footed, though you're unwilling to succumb when the film finally comes calling for sympathy.

Maborosi is a journey into the grief and guilt of a young mother (Esumi Makiko) whose husband (Asano Tadanobu) is killed by a train in an accident later revealed to have been suicide. Her search for peace and comprehension is detailed in sumptuous, near-static imagery. First-time director Kore-eda Hirokazu has created a pensive study of inner disquiet that is moving, lyrical but far too long.

In a Glastonbury-less year, Glastonbury the Movie, culled from six years of footage, will delight die-hards. For everyone else it's a disappointingly pedestrian affair, capturing scratchy performances from the likes of the Lemonheads and Omar, but none of the festival's dopey magic. One thing fits: it seems to last for three days.

n All films on general release from tomorrow

RYAN GILBEY

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