The movie is centered on controversial fashion photographer Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway), whose unique style of mixing sex and violence in her work has caught the eye of homicide detective John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) because some of the photographs found in her coffee table book “The Eyes of Mars” closely mirror actual crime scene photos. As premises go that’s not bad; crazed killer imitating the work of a famous artist could lead to some interesting discussions on the responsibility of an artists and the work, but that’s not all this movie throws at us because not only is Laura’s work somehow linked to a killer but she is suddenly having visions of said killer as he stalks and murders his latest victims. She is literally seeing through the eyes of the killer.
A killer who apparently suffers from glaucoma.To say these nightmarish images leave Laura a little distraught would be an understatement but when she discovers that these “visions” actually took place, and that someone is out there murdering her friends and associates, she starts to get pushed towards the edges of sanity. Dunaway is without a doubt one of the great actresses of our time but her portrayal of Laura Mars is basically a one note “Woman in Danger” role with her character looking panicked or terrified to varying degrees for the bulk of the film’s running time. So right there the film fails on the delivery of an interesting protagonist, and though I’m not one who expects every thriller to have a spunky heroine who insist on investigating the horrible goings on despite the possible dangers, but if the character's sole purpose is to simply scream and run in blind terror she’s not only boring but someone not worth rooting for, that is when she’s not having one of her “terrifying” visions.
Is that a look of terror or more of “I think I left iron on” expression?So if the film’s heroine is less than interesting then what about the killer? Because we only get POV shots of the murders (Side Note: Why do all these types of killers stare up at the knife hand during their kills?) we never get a sense of what kind of crazed individual we are dealing with or what really motivates him. Is he obsessed with Laura’s photos because he hates them or because they inspire him? Sadly the film seems even less interested in the killer than Detective Neville is as he seems more intrigued with the idea of getting into the pants of this “Frustrated voyeur type” as he calls her, than in catching the killer. And just what kind of suspects does this film?
Raul Julia), a womanizing drunkard and gigolo whose last money ticket was a friend of Laura’s and a victim of the killer?
Rene Auberjonois) who is maybe a trifle overbearing and controlling.
Brad Dourif), an ex-con who is mostly guilty of being played by Brad Dourif.
The suspects and red herrings though obvious and clichéd aren’t even the film’s major problem as I’ve seen worse in countless other examples of the genre, and at least the caliber of actors on hand here raises it above many of its contemporaries, but what sinks the film for me is that the whole premise of “Laura is seeing through the eyes of a killer” is never explained. Is the killer an unbeknownst evil twin of Laura's? Could it be that she is possessed by the ghost of a previous victim? Or maybe she just suddenly developed psychic powers like John Smith from The Dead Zone. Anyone of those would have been better than the non-explanation we get, and worse the filmmakers decided that the best way to end this type of film would be with a twist, one that comes out of left field and without one ounce of evidence presented before the "big reveal" that would lead us to buy into it. If you don’t want to learn the startling twist behind the Eyes of Laura Mars stop reading now.
After prime suspect, and one of the film's chief red herrings, Tommy Ludlow is murdered during a police chase the killer is presumed dead (a terrible and criminal way to underutilized Brad Dourif), but despite this "good news" Laura is shocked to find herself still being afflicted by one last vision of the killer. Turns out the killer wasn't her driver but was actually Detective John Neville, he gives us a long rambling monologue about being the child of a prostitute who witnessed his mother’s murder, and that he now clearly suffers from multiple personalities becomes very apparent. And what is the psychic connection between them that allows Laura to see through Neville’s eyes? Who the fuck knows, and that includes the filmmakers who clearly pulled this little revelation right out of their collective asses.