Volume 94, Issue 7
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Suspense worth watching - but Keanu is not the highlight
"HEY, LET ME TAKE YOUR PICTURE, THEN I'LL FOLLOW YOU HOME AND KILL YOU!"David Allen Griffin (Keanu Reeves) preys on lonely young women in the new suspense-thriller The Watcher
Starring: James Spader, Marisa Tomei, Keanu Reeves
Directed By: Joe Charbanic
By Matt Pearson
The Watcher, Joe Charbanic's directorial debut, is a fairly intelligent suspense movie that explores the relationship between a serial killer and the FBI agent assigned to the killer's case.
James Spader (2 Days in the Valley, Pretty in Pink) plays FBI agent Jack Campbell, who finds himself hiding out in Chicago, trying to get his life back in order, following a number of stressful years chasing serial killers in the West Coast. Campbell is a brooding, unhappy man who pumps himself full of barbiturates and seeks solace in his weekly visits with the young psychologist Polly, played by Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, Untamed Heart).
Campbell's recovery is violently interrupted when he begins to receive photos in the mail, of young women who are later found murdered in a ritualistic manner. Immediately, Campbell realizes he has been followed to Chicago by David Allen Griffin (Keanu Reeves), a serial killer he used to track in Los Angeles.
At this point, the two characters become entangled in a cat-and-mouse game, which takes the audience through a series of gruesome killings. Griffin taunts Campbell by sending him photos of young women he plans to murder and then giving the authorities 24 hours to locate the women and shield them from danger. The drama builds until Campbell must confront the demons of his past and the killer himself in a final, climactic duel.
Stylistically, The Watcher is a well executed movie. The opening credits offer an interesting start and the fitting soundtrack adds to the overall package. From the trance beats of Portishead to the heavy hitting sounds of Rob Zombie, each sequence is accompanied by effective, haunting music. As the movie progresses, a series of flashbacks are used in order to help the audience understand Agent Campbell's reasoning for leaving the West Coast. Flashbacks can be a risky undertaking in films, but thankfully Charbanic executes them wisely.
The movie also attempts to build suspense in a rather unusual way. Instead of leading the audience through a maze of possible suspects, the identity of the killer is obvious to the audience from the start. In other words, the real suspense comes as Agent Campbell closes in on Griffin.
Despite its cleverness, there are a few key problems with The Watcher. It relies on age-old recipes for suspense, instead of inventing new and original situations. The FBI agent-serial killer relationship has been adequately explored in a variety of more impressive thrillers, like Silence of the Lambs and Seven. Furthermore, the predictable nature of the storyline and an endless series of coincidences heavily questions the film's overall inventiveness.
Finally, some of the acting is downright dodgy. While Spader, Tomei and a small team of supporting actors appear quite convincing, Keanu Reeves fails to make the grade. He dresses like it's The Matrix, but speaks and acts like it's Parenthood or Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Surely, he is a disappointment to those who once believed he had the potential of Johnny Depp or John Cusack.
Although this would not rank as an all-time great suspense movie, The Watcher is a captivating, well constructed film. If only Keanu didn't sound like a beach bum, every time he opened his mouth, it might have fared better.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000