When Roy Scheider passed away on February 10, 2008 he was in the process of completing a film he was working on called “Iron Cross.” Though the film played some festivals, it was never released. Earlier this year it was announced that the film, now titled “Beautiful Blue Eyes,” (a title suggested to the producers by Scheider) would finally hit theatres, opening this past weekend.
Joseph (Alexander Newton) is a young man living in Nazi-occupied Poland. Even though he is Jewish, he has a non-Jewish girlfriend, who he often visits at night. One morning, after a night with his lover, Joseph returns to his home to find his family being taken away. He goes with them but, when the opportunity arises, runs off, the sound of his family being executed behind him ringing in his ears.
1997. Nuremburg, Germany. Joseph (Scheider) has traveled all the way from New York City in hopes of making amends with his son, Ronnie (Scott Cohen) he hasn’t seen in years. Recently retired from the NYPD – Scheider excelled at playing cops – he visits the apartment building his son and family live in, where he meets his daughter-in-law, Anna (Calita Rainford) and his young grandson. When Joseph and his son decide to go out, they pass an elderly man on the stairs. Joseph is stunned as he is sure the man on the stairs (Berger) was a monster from his past.
Where to start? I know when Scheider passed it was announced that there was still some of “Iron Cross” that needed to be filmed. I’m not sure if that was ever done, or to what effect those scenes may have had on the finished film. The film wants to be a thriller but is so jumbled in images and plot points that it is, sadly, sometimes hard to understand. We have no idea what kind of cop Joseph was. We get an occasional flash-back to his witnessing atrocities in Poland, only to have a quick cut to what appears to be a similar situation in New York. But we don’t know if this means that Joseph was a brutal cop or just that occasionally something at work would trigger a memory.
Another thing that I really found odd was the entire reason that Joseph and Ronnie were estranged. Joseph wanted Ronnie to follow in his footsteps as a cop, and Ronnie decided to move to Germany. However, he is currently an actor PLAYING a cop on a television program so when he decides to help Joseph investigate his neighbor, he is fully trained in the art of surveillance and investigating. I am a big fan of “NYPD BLUE,” but if I really need a cop, I’m not calling Dennis Franz.
Also confusing is the film’s use of subtitles. Sometimes when the characters are speaking German, their dialogue is accompanied by subtitles. But sometimes, it isn’t. And it seems like there is another actor doing some of Scheider’s dialogue, especially in voice overs. Again, I’m aware that the film as planned was never finished, and I’ve read that “Beautiful Blue Eyes” is approximately 30-minutes shorter then the version of “Iron Cross” that was shown. Those edits may have helped to continuity of the story and made the film less puzzling.
Still, this film gives Scheider’s fans an opportunity to see him on the big screen one more time. His performance is strong, a testament to the man who once told me that his most important role is the one he is currently working on. His final performance was no exception.