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Eyewitness
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Reviews & Ratings for
Eyewitness More at IMDbPro »

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Two apparently independent plots.

Author: dbdumonteil
10 September 2003

There are few films which boast such a first-rate cast:Christopher Plummer,Morgan Freeman ,Sigourney Weaver,James Woods ..And like in Hitchcock's "family plot" (1975),there are two apparently independent plots:on one hand,a shady business man's murder and a Vietnam veteran who becomes a janitor in the same building;on the other hand, a network which helps the Jews immigrate into the US.A fine thread connects the two stories:Weaver is the daughter of Jews who belong to this network and the fiancée (?) of one of them;and she's also a TV reporter who covers the affair I mention above;and she is also the janitor's idol.and...

When,after after almost one hour,the two plots become one,they do not hang well together(in Hitchcock's "family plot" ,the connection was very smart:a simple movement of the camera followed Karen Black ).And in spite of two spectacular scenes ,the rabid dog,and the horses which give the movie a fantastic touch,the story is at once implausible and predictable .Also handicapped by pointless minor characters such as Woods' sister and Hurt's father.This film does not rank among Peter Yates 'best.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A Buried, Character-Driven, Well-Cast Gem

8/10
Author: jzappa from Cincinnati, OH, United States
15 March 2009

This 1981 murder thriller, from a big studio with big stars of the time, with corny vintage taglines and advertisements, is good entertainment squarely because it pays more application to its people than its story. It's indubitably set in America, from the innards of a Manhattan boiler room to the newsroom of a TV station, even though it's about such real, involved, curious, and occasionally hilarious people that it have got to at the least be transatlantic.

This underrated neo-noir stars William Hurt as a janitor who happens upon proof that could lead to the conclusion of a murder investigation. But he doesn't go to the police with it because he's too reticent, too reflective, too doubtful of what he's seen and, mainly, he's too much in love from a distance with Sigourney Weaver's TV news reporter. Perhaps he can gain her regard by giving her the inside story.

There are other dilemmas. Sigourney Weaver's fiancée is an Israeli agent played by Christopher Plummer, who is embroiled in cloak-and-dagger overseas interventions to smuggle Jews out of the Soviet Union. His plan concerns secret fees to a corrupt Vietnamese agent who has now moved to Manhattan. The other characters include James Woods, as Hurt's impetuous and short-fused best friend and recently fired colleague, and Steven Hill and Morgan Freeman as a couple of stoic cops who ponderously trace leads in the case. One of their memorably stoic quips: "When Aldo was a little boy, he must have wanted to be a suspect when he grew up."

The advancement and resolution of the murder mystery are handled rather conventionally by director Peter Yates, who made some great thrillers like The Hot Rock and Bullitt, and his screenwriter, Steve Tesich. A climactic showdown in a midtown riding stable and its barely existent denouement has a touch of every thriller from the 1980s. But what makes this movie so enjoyable is the way Yates and Tesich and their characters play against our assumptions. It shows that there really is no excuse for a lack of cutting edge or creative spirit in genre films, because this one achieves a very poised harmony of the familiar and the original, predictability and unpredictability. Genres rely upon the audience's savvy and familiarity, on the seasoning they've stengthened from seeing movies and the frame of comparable encounters from they can evoke.

Weaver is not only a TV newswoman, but also a determined pianist on the side and the dejected daughter of her oppressive parents. Hurt is not only a janitor but also an emotional introvert, an animal lover who can rhapsodize his way into Weaver's heart. Woods is not only an unhinged janitor but also the forceful advocate of a marriage between his sister and Hurt. Hurt and the sister continue the engagement because they are both too nice to tell the other one they're not in love. And as a mystery thriller, it gives us multiple conceivable suspects and resolutions to the murder it sets up as a way of misleading us until the proper time to reveal the killer.

I've seen so many thrillers that, honestly, I don't always care that much how they resolve lest they're particularly well-crafted. What I like about this buried gem is that, where it has regard for how it turns out, it has even more regard for the essence of its scenes. There's not a scene in this movie that just constitutes plot information. Every scene defines characters. And they're developed in such uncommon integrity to the way people do act that we get all the more consumed in the mystery, merely considering that we comparatively trust it could actually be real. Actually, I'm going to buckle and say that there is one tagline for this movie that is pretty good: "You're never more vulnerable than when you've seen too much."

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

The end justifies the means....right?

7/10
Author: helpless_dancer from Broken Bow, Oklahoma
4 November 2001

Slightly offbeat murder yarn dealing with a pair of misfits who become involved in a murder which had nothing to do with either of them. This causes one of them to be targeted by an assassin who is involved in a love triangle between a woman and his intended victim. Strange film with a taut ending.

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12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Uneven roller-coaster ride

9/10
Author: herbqedi from New York, NY
19 April 2003

Parts are slow, and parts are non-sequitirs that don't quite add up. But the dialogues is marvelous, the acting terrific, and the suspense constant. Great bits by James Woods, Christopher Plummer, Stephen Hill, and Morgan Freeman add to the irony and the enjoymnent. It's fun to watch William Hurt before he got so jaundiced.

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9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

An unusual thriller

7/10
Author: Paul Arthur from London, England
23 May 1999

William Hurt stars as the brooding janitor in this sub-Hitchcockian thriller directed by Peter Yates (Bullitt). No-one in the film is quite what they seem, and Hurt plays the role of ambivalent hero/anti hero intelligently. Sigourney Weaver shows what a fine actress she really is whilst Christopher Plummer adds gravitas to the proceedings. Like Benton's Still Of The Night the film is well-crafted and often intriguing. Definitely well worth watching.

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

structure

Author: burtonfan17 from Los Angeles, Ca
11 July 2001

For weeks I have been looking for the perfect structure of a screenplay. This film had me in the first ten minutes because of what it set itself up to be. The structure had the camera following one principle lead, going off to meet the other principle lead, who would subsequently go off to meet the character from which the major plot developed. "Eyewitness" is a great film which showed me what I have been missing throughout my entire movie-watching career. After you meet the principle characters through following them, some kind of sub-plot, or major plot, or principle theme, will develop, and it will truly free up the entire movie. This is basically the structure of almost every independent film I have seen. Not to be missed.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Janitor in a Drum

7/10
Author: sol1218 from brooklyn NY
20 April 2005

***SPOILERS*** Love does strange things to people and the case of NYC office building janitor Daryl Deever, William Hurt, is a very good example. Throughout the entire film "Eyewitness" Daryl doesn't have a clue to why he's a marked man and what the reasons are for someone, or someone's, wanting him dead. What's more he doesn't even seen interested why! The guy is hopelessly in love.

Even at the end of the movie after a Charge of the Light Brigade down New York City's heavily traveled West Side with more bullets flying then even during the gunfight at O.K Corral Daryl doesn't at all seem to care what the reason for all this action and excitement is all about! All he has on his mind, all throughout the movie, is making it with channel Five TV live at five anchorwomen classy and pretty Tony Sokolow, Sigourney Weaver, who he's been secretly in love with ever since he saw her on TV six months ago.

Working as a janitor on the night shift Daryl finds that someone broke into the office of Mr. Long, Choa Li Chi, and murdered him. Daryl's friend and former army buddy Aldo Murcer, James Woods, had it out with Mr.Long and that argument cost him his job as a janitor. Aldo was also in the building the night that Mr. Long was murdered. This puts Daryl in a very uncomfortable position and has him withhold information from the police.

Seeing news reporter and anchorwomen Tony Sokolow at the scene Daryl just can't keep from trying to get to talk to her. Daryl concocts this BS story that he saw, which he didn't, the person who did in the unfortunate Mr.Long just to strike up a conversation and relationship with her. This harmless chat in the end leads the killer to overplay his hand thinking that Daryl indeed knows who he is and thus has to be eliminated! This also puts Tony's life in danger as well.

Terrific performances by all involved with William Hurt as Daryl the janitor who grew up on a farm who likes and understands horses. It's that valuable talent that in the end saved his life. Sigourney Weaver as the talented part-time concert pianist turned TV news anchorwoman who's attempt to get the big scoop on the Mr. Long murder uncovers things about a very close friend of her that she would rather not have known about.

James Woods in one of his earliest roles as the creepy and overbearing Aldo who's attempt to get his best friend Daryl to marry his sister Linda, Pamela Reed, backfires when Dayral meets Tony and the sparks really begin to fly. There was also a very moving scene between Dyral and Linda at her job where they both realized that they were not, and never were, in love with each other. Which freed them from the act that they were playing and allowed them to go on with their lives without the meddling and annoying Aldo running their lives into the ground. Aldo, if he didn't have enough problems already, is also into the mob for as much as $50,000.00 and with the cops looking for him in the Mr. Long killing, which the poor sap is innocent of, has him just about on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The exciting ending where Daryl, who's mind is still in a complete fog to why someone want's to murder him, goes to meet the killer thinking that he's Tony's father and, I guess, wanting to ask him for his daughters hand in marriage. Instead Daryl is set up to be killed by the killer and his accomplice who, like Daryl, have totally different ideas to just how much and what he knows about the Mr. Long murder.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Very good, but not as good as it might have been

7/10
Author: Dehlia_ from New York
3 May 2004

William Hurt plays a janitor who knows more than he's telling about a murder. Sigourney Weaver is the TV reporter he's long had a crush on, when she shows up at the murder scene for the story, he sees his knowledge as an opportunity to meet her.

William Hurt in the '80s was like John Cusack in the '90s (and to a lesser extent, today) -- not every movie he's in is good, but his very presence seems to add crackle and interest to the dialogue. He is particularly impressive in his scenes declaring his feelings for the reporter. Really impressive, actually, and the movie is totally worth watching for those scenes.

The sad thing about Eyewitness is that it sets up some very interesting musings on honesty, people using each other, and principals vs. feelings, and gives us some fairly interesting characters to play with those musings, and then trades in the whole package for a conventional, if well done, romance/mystery. Ah, well. 7/10

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7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

slow but effective

6/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
15 January 2001

This movie is great fun to see William Hurt, James Woods and Sigourney Weaver at the beginnings of their careers and when they were experiencing a good deal of success. The rest of the cast is top-notch. The story is very interesting and effective, though I found the film a bit uneven and slow.

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Not Much To See.

5/10
Author: AaronCapenBanner from North America
27 September 2013

William Hurt plays a Manhattan Janitor named Daryl Deaver, who is obsessed with a local newswoman named Tony Sokolow(played by Sigourney Weaver). When a Vietnamese man with a shady past is murdered in Daryl's building, he takes full advantage of meeting his crush by insinuating that he knows more about the murder than he does. Tony goes along with him, flattered but unsure. When the true killers get wind of Daryl's story, they plan on eliminating him, and before they know it, their really is a conspiracy to report...

Good acting by its fine cast(which includes James Woods, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher Plummer) cannot save this contrived and unconvincing mystery, which just doesn't amount to much.

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