“Short eyes” is prison slang for a man who sodomizes little boys. Fitting this odious description is new inmate Bruce Davison, who is arrested and locked up with the scum of the earth. Despite their own depravities, Davison’s fellow prisoners consider him the lowest form of human life, and proceed to treat him accordingly, in a series of appalling episodes that must have been as hard to film as they are to watch. Most of the supporting cast is comprised of real-life hoodlums, junkies and killers; small wonder that Davison retains his deer-in-the-headlights facial expression throughout the film. Short Eyes was based on a play by Miguel Pinero. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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Short Eyes is set in an unnamed House of Detention in New York City, the prisoners of which are predominately black or Puerto Rican. One day, a new prisoner is brought in: Clark Davis, a young, middle-class white man accused of raping a young girl. His fellow prisoners immediately turn on him — pedophiles are considered the lowest form of prison life — except for Juan, one of the institution’s older prisoners, who treats him with dignity. While Davis insists he doesn’t remember raping the girl, he admits that he has molested several other children.
Nevertheless, the case against him is weak and, unless Juan tells prison authorities about Davis’ confessions to him, it is only a matter of time before he is set free. As Juan struggles with what to do, the other prisoners plan to rid themselves of Davis permanently.
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Comment: How stereotypical.