Pros: some good visual moments, Chris Ellis
Cons: the rest of the acting, too predictable
There are movies that come along that really make me wonder what drew the talent to the project. Was it just a paycheck? Or was the original script much different than the final version that made it to the screen?
In The Watcher, James Spader is a former FBI agent, Joel Campbell, who's single-minded pursuit of serial killer David Griffin (portrayed by Keanu Reeves) has driven him to the brink of insanity. Desperate for relief from the ever-present reminders of the elusive killer, Campbell moves from Los Angeles to Chicago. The only problem is so does Griffin.
The first of Campbell's victims in Chicago lives in the same building as Campbell and Griffin sends him a picture of the girl still alive, just in case there was any doubt as to who the killer was. This gets Campbell involved in the investigation with Chicago homicide detective, Mack Hollis (portrayed by Chris Ellis) as the body count rises.
The rest of the film is a cat and mouse game between Campbell and Griffin that leaves few surprises for the viewer. The script is very formulaic and it comes as no surprise when the psychiatrist Campbell has been seeing (portrayed by Marisa Tomei) gets in Griffin's sights as his next victim.
There were so many problems with The Watcher, but overall the script is what left me wondering what the talent in this film was thinking. It's riddled with cliches and is so completely predictable that there are no real surprises as I was watching it. Visually it's fairly impressive as Director Joel Charbanic brings some of his music video background to the table, but it's not enough to make up for what this film is lacking elsewhere.
The acting disappointed me. Spader is good, but this isn't a role that would be something I'd even bring up when talking about some of the acting he's done. I've never quite gotten the attraction to Reeves as an actor, and here he left me flat. The first couple of scenes he's in are fine. However, the scene where he first calls Campbell on the phone, I can't really explain it except that Reeves doesn't seem natural. He doesn't flow as if he's really carrying on a conversation. Instead, it feels like he's just reading a script somewhere.
In addition, Marisa Tomei also has moments where she falters in her role as Spader's psychiatrist. I've seen her do so much better and it's disappointing. Ernie Hudson is here as well as a Chicago FBI agent, and it's a typical role for him. Chris Ellis is something of a bright spot as the Chicago detective, but it's not enough to make up for the film's shortcomings.
The DVD has no real special features to speak of, and having been released in 2000, the quality of the picture is fine. With all of the visual effects Charbanic employs in the film, a low-quality print would be evident rather quickly.
In the "what were they thinking" category of films, this would be a fair entry. The potential is there, and it's quite possible the lackluster performances were the result of changes from the original script that made the actors wonder what they were doing there. It's just not worth your time.
• Theatrical Trailer
• Production Notes
• Cast & Filmmaker Bios
© 2010 Patti Aliventi