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Suspect Zero

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Suspect Zero

Starring: Ben Kingsley, Aaron Eckhart
Director: E. Elias Merhige
Rated: R
RunTime: 99 Minutes
Release Date: August 2004
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Carrie-Anne Moss, Julian Reyes, Frank Collison, Kevin Chamberlin, William R. Mapother, Brady Coleman, Ed Dames, Nicole DeHuff, Buddy Joe Hooker

Review by Jerry Saravia
1½ stars out of 4

"Suspect Zero" is one of the most nonsensical and implausible thrillers I've seen in a long time. Actually, it's plausibility is so dependent on obscure plot twists that human characters are at about the level of human waste.

Aaron Eckhart (who could certainly play a 1930's Indiana Jones, if anyone is interested) is the latest FBI agent in the movies, albeit one with problems in his career past. His name is Thomas Mackelway, who proves to be a loose cannon when we see him beat the living daylights out of a suspected killer before arresting him. Due to such unprofessional conduct, Mackelway is demoted to an Albuquerque, N.M. office, and his first case is a murder that occurs on the state line between Arizona and New Mexico. The murder victim is a traveling salesman found with his eye lids removed. Other murders begin taking place, including the killer that Mackelway tried to arrest. And he starts receiving faxes from someone who may be the killer, or not. His former partner, Fran (Carrie-Anne Moss), tries to help him on this case, and to make sense of the endless faxes of missing persons. They are from a former FBI agent, Benjamin O'Ryan (Ben Kingsley), who has a telepathic ability, with the use of GPS coordinates, to find serial killers. In fact, Benjamin may be killing serial killers. Or is Benjamin the killer himself who enjoys leaving clues for our less than stalwart G-man?

"Suspect Zero" is the kind of thriller where Dutch angles, grainy film stock, intense, sweaty close-ups and a murmuring soundtrack give the semblance of a moody thriller. Sometimes, the conceit works. Here, the story is impossible to follow thanks to a dozen loopholes and plot holes. For example, how on earth can GPS help Benjamin locate a killer? The movie shows that Benjamin's own FBI training came from a secret government project ("Project Icarius") where telepathy was the main course of action to find serial killers. That's fine, but how does one develop telepathic capabilities where they see crimson-colored images of crimes that are about to happen? Is he more clairvoyant than telepathic? And how come Mackelway has the same ability? And does Benjamin's ability extend to people related to a murder case, not just the killer(s)? And what's with the constant migraines? And how come Fran refers to paintings of Jesus as the work of a freak?

The problem is "Suspect Zero" develops next to zilch in terms of characters and a story worth caring about. As played by Eckhart, Mackelway comes across as indifferent and apathetic. Since he is the main protagonist, we are left wondering why his only noticeable trait is that he takes a mouthful of aspirin before his day begins. His relationship with Fran does have one touching moment that is squandered by the actor's indifference. At least, Carrie-Anne Moss is a unique actress who can project vulnerability in spades, so much that we wish she was the protagonist and Eckhart was second fiddle. As for Ben Kingsley, he seems to have taken part in an extended cameo where he mostly sweats, jots down numbers, and looks fulmineous. He does have one humorous moment where he sees a truck and says, "I wonder what is inside that truck."

Director E. Elias Merhige ("Shadow of a Vampire") believes frenetic, gory, fulsome imagery in quick flashes is a substitute for suspense. It could have been with empathetic characters and a fleshed-out story, but the people in this movie live in a world of zero charisma.

Copyright 2004 Jerry Saravia

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