The Watcher

Face to face. Campbell (Spader) finally confronts the murderous Griffin (Reeves).
dir Joe Charbanic
scr David Elliot, Clay Ayers
with James Spader, Keanu Reeves, Marisa Tomei, Ernie Hudson, Chris Ellis, Robert Cicchini, Yvonne Naimi, Jennifer McShane, Gina Alexander, Rebekah Louise Smith, Joe Sikora, Jillian Peterson
Universal 00/US 2 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
It seems like there's a bottomless pit of these kinds of films in Hollywood--formulaic, visually stylish thrillers about a deeply troubled cop on the trail of a brutal, charismatic serial killer, while a top young actress makes a brief appearance as a tough, smart professional caught up unawares in the nightmare, ending up in danger herself. No there's nothing new at all in The Watcher, but at least it's efficient, slick and utterly undemanding.

Serial killer expert Campbell (Spader) has run away to Chicago from a terrible situation in L.A., which we find out about in dribs and drabs until the "shattering" revelation. He's a physical, emotional and psychological wreck--even his shrink (Tomei) seems clueless about how to help him. Then the L.A. nightmare comes to haunt him in the form of a heartless murderer (Reeves) who draws Campbell back into his work and engages in an elaborate cat-and-mouse game.

As with most of these films, it's directed with real flair by a music video veteran, and Charbanic pulls out all the usual stops, uses music, editing, film stocks and so forth very nicely to at least make the film look terrific. Spader is very good (as usual) as a man at the end of his rope forced to keep going; Reeves is gleefully vile in a role that must have seemed fresh to him at least; and Tomei tries to be thoughtful and intelligent even though her role only exists to put her in jeopardy at the end. Ho hum. Despite cleverly shot action sequences and characters we actually are interested in, there is nothing remotely original about this film. It simply exists to let us turn off our brains for 97 minutes and maybe be scared just a little. I wasn't ... but then, I've seen this same film in various incarnations far too many times before.

[15--themes, language, violence] 10.Oct.00
US release 8.Sep.00; UK release 9.Mar.01

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall