This was written in late March of 1993, putting it near the end of my five years as an undergraduate college student and my three years as a film critic on radio station WWSP-FM. As for the latter experience, the weariness was clearly starting to show, at least when it came to sitting through the steady procession of drab thrillers that followed the runaway success of The Silence of the Lambs. Since I use the Academy Awards as an entryway into the review, it’s worth noting that the four freshly-named acting winners at this point were Al Pacino, Emma Thompson, Gene Hackman (his second), and Marisa Tomei. Within a couple years, it seemed Tomei might be stuck with the same grim career that Matlin had to muddle through. Instead, she rallied, picking up additional Oscar nominations in her career, which, remarkably, have eluded the two winning males that year.
With the glamor of the recent Oscar telecast still fresh in our minds, it’s a good time to remember that, despite the prestige that comes with winning the coveted award, an Oscar doesn’t guarantee a career full of strong roles. A perfect example of that is actress Marlee Matlin. She won the 1986 Best Actress Oscar for her bracing performance in the drama Children of a Lesser God. Within a few years, though, Matlin was having such a difficult time finding work that she had to stoop to doing a cat food commercial. These days, the successful television series Reasonable Doubts has the actress working regularly again and has given her enough clout to once again earn movie parts. But if her latest film, Hear No Evil, is any indication of the quality level of future projects, it will be quite a while before Matlin’s Oscar has a companion.
Hear No Evil is a completely uninspired thriller that is tepid, implausible, and downright ridiculous. Matlin plays a young deaf woman who works as a physical trainer. One of her clients plants a stolen coin worth millions of dollars on her, and the corrupt police officer who masterminded the robbery starts terrorizing her in an effort to get the coin, even though she is completely unaware that she has it.
Also inserted into the mix is a lazy romance with a restaurant manager, played by D.B. Sweeney. Their romance never really connects with the audience because both characters are so drastically underdeveloped. We know practically nothing about these people, so their romance together is about as meaningful as watching a pair of strangers hold hands in the park.The supposed thrills are about as effective. Martin Sheen plays the evil police officer with such overblown menace that he quickly becomes laughable rather than frightening.
This is the sort of movie that usually requires the characters to act like idiots to keep the plot moving. Even worse is the film’s attempt at a shocking twist towards the end. Since the recent glut of thrillers has made it harder to surprise an audience, the makers of Hear No Evil have to stoop to a completely nonsensical twist.
The film concludes with a run-of-the-mill sequence involving the murderous villain stalking our heroine through a large, empty hotel while the hero rushes to the rescue. The only parts of Hear No Evil that aren’t predictable are the parts that make no sense.
The film represents yet another contribution to the growing pile of bad thrillers that Hollywood has produced over the course of the past two years. With any luck, this is a trend that will soon die. And hopefully that death will be more final than the one that usually befalls the villains that populate these features.