After the rape and murder of her 17 year-old daughter, Karen McCann is distraught - but when the man responsible is freed, she becomes obsessed with the idea of revenge. A few courses in marksmanship and self-defence later, and she's ready to go after the killer.
With a solid cast, direction from Britain's John Schlesinger - who jangled copious nerves with Marathon Man and Pacific Heights - and the controversy-courting subject matter of a child's horrific rape and murder and a mother's hunger for revenge, this gears up as a tense and thought-provoking thriller. Sadly, with formula too often favoured to invention and its social message lost in histrionics, the potency of the material fizzles out.
Field is the smart but dowdy mother of two whose life is blown apart when her elder daughter (Olivia Brunette) dies at the hands of a fruitcake psychopath (Sutherland). His only motive appears to be a desire to do evil, something which manifests itself in a number of characteristics (pouring coffee over a dog, much spitting, etc.) that suggest his sanity has long since departed. But when a court lets him off on a technicality, the mother's grief turns to anger and an obsession with revenge that hubbie Harris can do little to subdue.
Thereafter, being predictable doesn't necessarily mean that a movie can't be entertaining, but Schlesinger relies on unpleasant shocks - witness two disturbing murder scenes, each tottering perilously between the powerful and the gratuitous - instead of psychological tension building or ingenious plot twists.
In the wake of the O.J. Simpson trial, there ought to have been plenty of opportunity to address the issues of what to do when justice fails, but this simply isn't clever enough, building up instead to a workmanlike finale in which cheap thrills are replaced by no thrills, and any pretence of thoughtful debate has long since been abandoned.