“Whoever killed Long is a hero in my book.”
A janitor (William Hurt) stumbles upon the murdered body of a Vietnamese businessman in his office building, and hopes that his “privileged information” will give him access to a beautiful television journalist (Sigourney Weaver) he’s had a crush on for years.
What does an underground movement to smuggle Jews out of communist Russia have to do with obsessive fans, Vietnam vets, horses, motorcycles, and a hated Asian businessman who’s found by a janitor late one night with a telephone cord wrapped tightly around his neck? Screenwriter Steve Tesich — who also wrote the script for director Peter Yates’ highly regarded cult film, Breaking Away (1979) — manages to weave these seemingly disparate plot elements into a most unusual “murder mystery” thriller, one which unfolds in completely unanticipated ways. What’s most refreshing about Tesich’s script (in which red herrings abound) is its character-driven focus: as the movie progresses, we learn more and more about each of the characters, who are gradually revealed to be more complex and nuanced than we originally thought. Indeed, it’s difficult to say too much about Eyewitness without giving away spoilers of one kind or another, given that so much of what happens exposes new character motivations. Young Hurt and Weaver are both excellent, as is the cast of supporting players (including Christopher Plummer as Weaver’s pro-Israel boyfriend, James Woods as Hurt’s co-worker and friend, and Pamela Reed as Woods’ long-time girlfriend). The final climactic scene in a stable is most creatively staged.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- William Hurt as Daryll Deever
- Sigourney Weaver as Tony
- Steve Tesich’s character-driven screenplay
No, but it’s a good, unusual little thriller, and worth seeing once. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.