Eyewitness is the kind of film which really should be a classic but despite a cast to die and a solid director at the helm, it’s good but never quite gets to the heights it should-be. Peter Yates directs it after the surprise success of his cult bike racing film Breaking Away. Steve Tesich wrote the script for that film along with Eyewitness and later on wrote Eleni for Yates as well.
William Hurt stars in what was only in his 2nd feature film with Eyewitness, he did a good decade of stage work till his debut film appearance in Altered States. He plays the lonely janitor (in some countries including the original uk release it’s called The Janitor) Daryll Deever who has an obsession bordering on the creepy with the local newswoman Tony Sokolow play by Sigourney Weaver. They eventually meet because a rich Vietnamese businessman is murdered who had criminal links who worked in the building Daryll cleans. She is trying to get information out of him because he pretends to have some so she keeps calling him back. The police suspect his fellow friend who is also a Vietnam vet like Daryll who is a bit of a loser played by James Wood.
The first half of the film is a really solid thriller but the whole thing falls apart in the last act and the whole Soviet agent angle with Christopher Plummer as Sokolow’s fiance doesn’t really add up. However Hurt is great but even in the worst films he is and Woods hasn’t become the right-wing nutjob he is now and is still in that sleaze ball Videodrome mode which made us love him till his abhorrent view. Morgan Freeman even appears in his only second credited on-screen role as the cop Lt. Black.
Yates is obviously a really solid director and made one of the best crime films of the ’70s with The Friends of Eddie Coyle and of course his work on Bullitt is iconic. He brings his “A” game to the film but the script probably could’ve used another rewrite or two. The cinematography from Matthew F. Leonetti is rich and contains some great compositions. He remains one of the more underrated DPs working he worked with Walter Hill in the late ’80s and shot Strange Days as well but sadly he has worked on some really crap films in more recent years.
Signal One Entertainment’s disc is loaded with special features which is what you expect from this still relatively new company. First up is a commentary track from Peter Yates recorded back in 2005, he has since passed away. Not one but two different NFT talks with Yates are included one is audio and the other video, I’ve noticed S1 kind of started included and some other labels have followed suit. The composer Stanley Silverman gives a newly filmed interview and a VHS version is included! The disc is rounded off with the usual trailer and tv spot.