Today, now that he’s received a second Oscar nomination for playing Rocky Balboa, directed several Expendable movies, and reemerged as an icon of American pop culture, it’s easy to forget just how bad Sylvester Stallone’s career was going at the start of the 21st Century. After appearing in a notable series of flops and going unrewarded after his attempt to reinvent himself as a serious actor in Cop Land, Stallone was in danger of fading into irrelevance. While Arnold Schwarzenegger was preparing to run for governor, Stallone found himself facing every former star’s nightmare: a career in direct-to-video thrillers.
Eye See You comes from that period of Stallone’s career. It’s basically a slasher film, except that the victims are all middle-aged alcoholics instead of nubile teens. Stallone plays FBI agent Jack Malloy, who hits the bottle pretty hard after his girlfriend is murder by a serial killer. After Malloy attempts suicide, his partner (Charles S. Dutton) sends Malloy to an isolated rehab clinic, one that caters only to cops on the edge. Unfortunately, the serial killer follows Malloy to the clinic and, when a sudden blizzard hits, the killer starts to pick off all of the cops, one-by-one.
Eye See You (which was originally called D-Tox until someone finally realized that made the movie sound like it was about a robot learning how to be human) is really bad. Jim Gillespie also directed I Know What You Did Last Summer and he brings out all of the usual slasher tricks but they’re less effective when the people being stalked are adults who should have enough common sense not to split up when there’s a killer on the loose. The film tries to throw in some of The Thing‘s paranoia and it also tries to duplicate The Shining‘s sense of isolation but none of it really works. The Thing was set in an arctic research facility while The Shining was set in a hotel that was specifically closed in the winter because of the risk of blizzard. There’s really no logical reason for Eye See You‘s rehab center to be located out in the middle of nowhere except for the fact that the film needed to get Stallone and the other cops isolated. Even if you accept that the rehab center needs to be away from civilization, why build it in a location that is certain to get regularly hit by life-threatening weather?
The film is full of great character actors but it wastes them. If you’re going to have Tom Berenger, Robert Patrick, and Kris Kristofferson all in the same film, one of them should turn out to be the murderer! Instead, they’re just there to die and it’s hard not to resent a waste of good actors. For his part, Stallone seems to be mentally checked out, as if he knew during filming that this wasn’t going to be his comeback vehicle.
Fortunately, even after appearing in films like Eye See You, Stallone was able to eventually make a comeback. As has often been the case in his career, he did it by taking matters into his own hands and bringing both Rambo and Rocky Balboa back to theaters. The Expendables films, while hardly being high art, served to remind people of why they liked Stallone in the first place and Creed reminded everyone that Stallone actually can act when he has the right script. Fortunately, Sly was saved from spend the rest of his career appearing in direct-to-video films and I’m glad. Direct-to-video is the perfect place for Steven Seagal but Sylvester Stallone belongs on the big screen!