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The Cable Guy (12). Jim Carrey's latest energy-sapping exercise in buffoonery, directed by Reality Bites's Ben Stiller, is an unstable compound of black comedy and semi-satirical message movie. Matthew Broderick plays Steven, a strait-laced fellow who gets more than he expects when he takes out a cable subscription. The cable guy, Chip (Carrey), wants to be his friend. Rubbery features and an exhaustive knowledge of Seventies sitcoms notwithstanding, Chip seems innocuous enough at first. But when Steven backs off, Chip promptly pulls a Glenn Close: he gets Steven arrested for theft and fired from his advertising job, then kidnaps his girlfriend and ties her to a satellite dish. There is, of course, a neat pop-psychological explanation for Chip's sociopathic neediness: he watched too much TV as a little boy. On this evidence, so did writer Lou Holtz Jr, who stuffs his achingly self-conscious script with numerous snatches from the TV archives. Stiller is a better actor than he is a director (see Flirting with Disaster), and his fragmented, MTV-influenced style, though appearing to suit the material, is difficult to take, especially in tandem with Carrey's muggings. The film assumes an ultimately untenable position: TV is bad, it shrieks, it makes social deviants of us all; truth be told, Jim Carrey movies are worse, and their effects should not be underestimated.

Eye for an Eye (18). The unfortunate return to vigilantism in American movies (Sleepers, A Time to Kill) finds its unlikeliest avenger in the form of Sally Field. But the casting of the ingratiating mother-of-Gump fits perfectly into the manipulative plans of John Schlesinger's heinous film. In a hysterical sequence, Field's daughter (sweet, self-sacrificing) is raped and murdered by the bottomless abyss that is Kiefer Sutherland (tattooed, ugly, mean to animals); when he is freed on a legal technicality, our Sally resolves to track down the bastard and do what any Hollywood mother would do: blow his brains out. Along the way, she promotes firearms possession as an aphrodisiac, overpowering and devouring husband Ed Harris in a fit of passion induced by her first experience with a gun. For years now, Schlesinger's work has been routinely trite, but it's still disheartening to see him turn out something this crude and senseless. Dennis Lim