The Watcher
Dir: Joe Charbanic
Star: James Spader, Keanu Reeves, Marisa Tomei
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 2000
Format: DVD R2

After suffering a nervous breakdown from the death of his girlfriend, at the hands of the brutal serial killer that he has been pursuing. FBI agent Joel Campbell ( James Spader) quits the case and the bureau and moves to Chicago to get away from it all. Refusing to let his adversary escape him so easily, the serial killer Griffin ( Keanu Reeves) follows Campbell to Chicago in an attempt to resume their psychological game of cat & mouse. After the murder of a girl in the same apartment block as him, Campbell finds a picture of the victim, which he was mailed a day before the murder. Griffin has now changed the rules of their little game and now sends Campbell a picture of his intended victim, allowing him a day to try to find and save them before the time runs out and he strikes. Despite his torment and constant need for medication, Campbell takes the case and begins the game again in an attempt to lay his demons to rest. Pretty soo, Griffin gets deeper under Campbell's skin in their battle of wills and it becomes apparent however to Campbell's psychiatrist Dr. Polly Bleiman (Marisa Tomei) that the two men form a symbiotic relationship and both require the other to live. But the final challenge comes when Campbell receives a picture of his favourite psychiatrist....

Good idea for a story (but aren't they all) but the execution of it is on the whole rather shabby and leaves plenty of unfulfilled potential. The script is woefully underwritten and the mundane direction by newcomer Joe Charbanic drags down a film which could have been a lot better. The insistence to cover the back story between Griffin and Campbell by means of irreverant flashbacks is cheap looking and proves a jolty and frustratingly out of focus trip. They are generally migraine inducingis and generally painful, filling you with the urge to skip past them or switch off the film completely. This urge is compounded by the lack of any real suspense, surprises or shocks as the film awkwardly carries itself along with some pitiful special effects to a blatant and hideously obvious conclusion.

This is a fairly good cast, but they struggle to maintain any semblence of talent and authenticity under the inexperienced control of Joe Charbanic and the dreary writing, causing them to flounder in the dreadful dying throes that is the film. Keanu Reeves doesn't do at all well I'm afraid and appears to be incapable of successfully portraying a bad guy or villain, as he is evidently far better suited for the "unlikely hero" kind of character. On the whole he is unbelievable as a villain and lacks any menace or threatening intent associated with this kind of role, or that pure psychological intensity that is required. After an equally lacklustre performance in The Gift where he once again attempts to portray a bad guy, I think that he should learn to accept the roles which he is better suited such as the likes of Speed or The Matrix. Keanu Reeves isn't a particuarly bad actor, but he is just better suited and more believable in those particular kind of roles, but for many he is best in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Not even a typically intense performance by James Spader can save the film, and despite one or two scenes where he shines, the character just seems to be lacking something. The excellent Ernie Hudson isn't used half as much as he should be and this proves to be another of the film's flaws as he could have brought much more to the story if he had been given a stronger role. Marisa Tomei surprisingly isn't particuarly impressive as Campbell's psychiatrist and again she appears to be very under-used as the story is focussing on Campbell and Griffin. There is some good chemistry between some of the cast but nothing ever comes of it and the brief and well dramatised scenes are so short lived that you tend to miss them first time around.

Not a complete loss though, there are one or two good pieces of cinematography that are easily overlooked but offer little entertainment value to a generally boring movie. The film truly lacks the neccessary punch required to make this a good thriller and despite what promised to be a good story the film does nothing to captivate the viewer. The viewer is generally relieved when the film finishes but is left craving some serious entertainment to compensate for the boring hour and a half that he/she has spent on watching this film. To the less discernable this may prove to be a good film but to be honest if you want a real thriller try something like Memento or Basic Instinct which are far closer to the appropriate mark.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Picture 16:9 Not bad but occasionally grainy
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Acceptable
Features Dull static menu
Verdict The complete lack of extra's may be a bonus for a sub standard thriller like this but a few deleted or alternate scenes would have been nice. A boring disc for a boring film.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home