The Austin Chronicle

Hear No Evil

Rated R, 97 min. Directed by Robert Greenwald. Starring Marlee Matlin, D.B. Sweeney, Martin Sheen, John C. McGinley.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., April 2, 1993

There's something sadistic about films which purposely place impaired persons in danger for the sake of suspense. Treating the impairment as a liability making one less than whole, they embrace a Darwinian logic of survival of the fittest that distinguishes the victim from the victimizer. In Hear No Evil, the hearing impaired heroine is terrorized by someone who wants a rare coin in her unknowing possession. To underscore her vulnerability, the film counterpoints moments of terror with the soundless serenity of her world -- someone screams in the next room while being attacked by a masked assailant, but all she can hear is the murmur of her own heartbeat. Although this may sound like an interesting, if somewhat clich├ęd, approach to the genre, the hackneyed screenplay for Hear No Evil makes so little sense that any hint of stylistic attribute is lost in its narrative mess. To worsen matters, the direction is Seventies retro, down to its badly lit scenes (was a light meter not in the budget?) and use of an insufferable soundtrack (shades of Boston and Kansas). Matlin, the Oscar-winning (Children of a Lesser God) actress who is actually hearing impaired, makes a game effort here, but she can do little more than play the damsel in distress. One-dimensional villain Sheen, playing a corrupt cop, is embarrassingly bad in a role typical of his career in the past few years -- now we know where Emilio and Charlie get all of their talent. Of course, it's only fair to observe that few, if any, actors could rise above the mediocrity of Hear No Evil. By the time it denigrates into a Friday the 13th-inspired finale, you may wish you had been deprived of all sensory perception in the last two hours.

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