‘Eagle Eye’ lacks clarity and competent writing

In theaters

EAGLE EYE, directed by D.J. Caruso, written by John Glenn, Travis Adam Wright, Hillary Seitz and Dan McDermott, 118 minutes, rated PG-13.

Shia LaBeouf has a new movie out. It’s called “Eagle Eye,” the very title of which promises a certain clarity of vision. Too bad the movie lacks one.

In fact, let’s be clear about the experience of watching “Eagle Eye.” It’s akin to being tossed into the business end of a washing machine, spun on high for the better part of two hours, then released into the world feeling bruised, scraped and battered — and as if you’ve just been soaked out of $8 in the process.

Four writers worked in concert to mangle the script — John Glenn, Travis Adam Wright, Hillary Seitz and Dan McDermott — all of whom wrote such a ridiculously convoluted screenplay, you sit there thinking, “Wow, this is a ridiculously convoluted screenplay.”

Since describing the movie’s stupid, unwieldy plot in detail would mean taking over the entire newspaper and likely one of its supplements, let’s just cut the plot down to its essentials.

LaBeouf is Jerry Shaw, a bright bum from Chicago who is busy enjoying the world when his world suddenly collapses in a series of events that go terribly wrong: Jerry’s accomplished twin brother dies, cell phones start to ring, a cool, computerized female voice starts directing Jerry through all sorts of hell, the feds get involved (a bland Billy Bob Thornton among them), much chasing ensues, buildings collapse, cars explode, and Jerry unwittingly is led to Rachel (Michelle Monaghan), a single mother who also is being bossed around by that same robotic voice.

What’s behind the voice is a computer that will remind plenty of HAL from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” because, let’s face it, Caruso and company stole the idea from that movie. That said, they didn’t do so without pimping out their own version with all sorts of menace. Housed in the Pentagon, the computer can tap into any number of available technologies to spy on people and create havoc in an effort to achieve its desired end — killing the president of the United States and members of his Cabinet.

It’s into this equation that Jerry and Rachel factor, but in ways that become so ludicrous, the only response is to laugh, sigh or cry, particularly because a key plot element involves the need to prevent Rachel’s son from tooting his trumpet while playing it in front of Congress. I’m not joking. If Junior blows his horn, everyone dies. Seriously.

For character development, the movie pauses for about 30 seconds so Rachel can pine for her son just when all seems lost to her. Deepening the movie is that Jerry is allowed about the same amount of time to reflect on his dead twin. Beyond that, neither actor is allowed to bring anything to the movie other than fight and flight. In fact, what’s so curious about “Eagle Eye” is that its producers could have walked into any supermarket, plucked two reasonably attractive people from the checkout line, handed them the bum script, put them in the film, and nothing would have changed.

Well, nothing, of course, except for the steep savings in salaries.

Grade: D

On DVD and Blu-ray disc

Strip away all the lies, blood and corruption in “L.A. Confidential,” Curtis Hanson’s film about lies, blood and corruption in 1950s Los Angeles, and you’ll find hookers cut to look like movie stars, gangland-style executions, dead bodies rotting in dim basements, mobsters on the lam, and cops privately flashing badges of racism while publicly raging against it. And that’s just in the opening credits.

Upon its 1997 release, the film, now out on Blu-ray disc, put film noir back on screen just as magnificently as James Cameron, in that same year, put the Titanic back on the Atlantic Ocean. With its intense script and cast driving the lot of it — Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey — this Academy Award-winning movie doesn’t so much stylize the past as it brings out problems from it that remain alive in the present. It’s a terrific example of modern noir.

Also recommended on DVD are three crime-related shows, each different. Those seeking something gritty should turn to the fourth season of “CSI: NY,” with Gary Sinese, Melina Kanakaredes and crew keeping the series on edge thanks to their dealings with the 333 stalker. The fourth season of “Numb3rs” is available with FBI agent Don Eppes (Rob Morrow) relying on his brother’s gift for mathematics to solve crimes in L.A. And for a bizarre, romantic twist on the genre, there’s “Beauty and the Beast: The Complete Series,” which features the bestial love between a female district attorney (Linda Hamilton) and a man-beast named Vincent (Ron Perlman) that somehow worked without coming off as being too creepy. Well, at least until she gave birth to his son.

Finally, two variety show throwbacks are just out, each featuring its share of siblings. First is the slight and so-so “The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show,” which ran Saturday mornings in the mid-1970s and redefines the idea of a cheesy retro vibe, and second is “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: The Best of Season 3,” which aired during the 1968-69 television season.

During its brief run, what that show did brilliantly (and some might say ruinously) is that it used the tumultuous Vietnam War years to bring such tension to the variety show format, CBS couldn’t handle the dark satire Tom and Dick Smothers offered. Censoring the show became a mainstay, even at the local level, which led to creative unrest, infighting and to CBS eventually canceling the series. For today’s viewers, the reasons it was canceled might seem ridiculous, but from a historic perspective, this funny, uncensored set does offer a valuable look back.

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Mondays, Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.