Movie review: Eagle Eye -- 3 out of 5 stars

Far-fetched, fast-moving, locked and overloaded, Eagle Eye is what happens when you give the people who made a success of the modestly budgeted Disturbia a blank check. The fever-pitch paranoia of this terrorist thriller, the seizure-inducing editing, the dense layers slapped on a fairly simple plot all point to a kind of overkill that only Hollywood money can buy.

Jerry, who's young and way too smart for his starvation-wage Copy Cabana job, checks his ATM and discovers hundreds of thousands of dollars in his account. He opens the door to his dump of an apartment to see military ordnance and the makings of an Oklahoma City bomb. His cell phone rings. "The F.B.I. will be there in 30 seconds."

And bang! Eagle Eye is off like a rifle shot. The Feds catch the guy, but the all-seeing/all-knowing terrorist making the call springs him. How all-seeing/all-knowing? Able to change traffic lights and electronic billboards, set off alarms, inflate airbags, derail trains or short-out power lines at will, able to track Jerry wherever he goes, by phone, by surveillance camera. And whoever it is, they've blackmailed others into the same scheme. That's how Rachel, a single mom (Michelle Monaghan), meets him. Her son's in danger. The two strangers are sent on a wild odyssey, not knowing where they're going, what they're doing or who they're doing this for.

Director D.J. Caruso and star Shia LaBeouf leaned heavily on Hitchcock's Rear Window for Disturbia -- so heavily that they've been sued by the copyright holders of that story. They don't make the same mistake here. The movie may start as a riff on Hitchcock's mistaken identity/pawn-in-plot thriller North By Northwest. But it borrows just as heavily from The Fugitive (with Billy Bob Thornton in the Tommy Lee Jones role) and a couple of other techno-thrillers that I won't divulge.

There's no time for character development, barely a pause to catch our breath or consider how plausible all this is, or even that there's a ticking clock here -- an event or series of events that must be prevented by means we can't figure out due to the heart-racing pace of the piece.

Which means that Eagle Eye isn't a bad movie, it's just too cluttered, too derivative. The best thrillers, Hitchcock taught us, begin with characters we embrace, and then add devices (MacGuffins), pace and plot. Here, our Hitchcock thieves started with the MacGuffin, shortchanged the characters and gave us a plot you don't have to be an Eagle Eye to figure out way before the credits.