According to IMDb, it took Howard Franklin ten years to get his script produced. In that time, I wonder if he worked on it, because the finished product does not appear to have been considered. The Public Eye is beyond tedious. The combination of Franklin’s plotless script and Mark Isham’s nap-inducing score make the whole thing unbearable. It’s not bad–though Pesci’s performance is flat and his character (thanks to Franklin’s script) lifeless–but there’s nothing good about it either. It’s totally uninteresting, a 1940s crime photographer who does… something.
Franklin’s trying to juggle a few genres here–one is a period-piece mystery, which isn’t exactly film noir and Franklin seems to know it isn’t film noir and he’s not using that genre’s standards. As a result, he’s trying something (relatively) unique and he isn’t suited for it as a director or writer. Additionally, Franklin doesn’t make the setting interesting. The Public Eye trades on the assumption the viewer is going to find 1940s mobsters interesting. Why I have no idea. But it certainly does, because Franklin does nothing to make his content compelling.
I’ve noticed I’ve been saving the “big problem” for its own paragraph lately. And again. The big problem–Franklin obviously thinks Pesci’s character is real interesting, the crime photographer who sees everything as a possible picture. The most embarrassing scene comes early, when Pesci is supposed to be selling a photo book and even Pesci can’t muster enthusiasm for his dialogue. It comes off monotone and disinterested, like he took the part because it needed a short guy and Pesci needed top billing in a film, any film.
The Public Eye is a pointless, meandering waste of time. An attempt at auteur from someone who shouldn’t try. It reminds me of a sitcom no one remembers, but it ran for three weeks in 1988, so someone must have watched it. But there’s simply no point in watching something like The Public Eye; though it does manage to be abjectly uninteresting, as an example of an uninteresting movie.
Written and directed by Howard Franklin; director of photography, Peter Suschitzky; edited by Evan Lottman; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Marcia Hinds-Johnson; produced by Sue Baden-Powell; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Joe Pesci (Leon Bernstein), Barbara Hershey (Kay Levitz), Jared Harris (Danny the Doorman), Stanley Tucci (Sal), Jerry Adler (Arthur Nabler), Dominic Chianese (Spoleto), Richard Foronjy (Farinelli), Richard Riehle (Officer O’Brien) and Gerry Becker (Conklin).