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The Watcher

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Watcher

Starring: James Spader, Keanu Reeves
Director: Joe Charbanic
Rated: R
RunTime: 93 Minutes
Release Date: September 2000
Genres: Action, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Marisa Tomei, Chris Ellis, Ernie Hudson, Robert Cicchini, Yvonne Niami, Jennifer McShane, Gina Alexander, Rebekah Louise Smith, Joe Sikora

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewmovie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

Serial killer movies are probably the easiest to get right. Formula pictures, they can almost run on autopilot. Making an outstanding one, like COPYCAT, of course, requires considerable skill and effort. In THE WATCHER, by music video director Joe Charbanic, the pacing is so far off and the editing is so haphazard that it is easy to forget what genre the movie is supposed to belong to. It's not easy to make a dull serial killer movie, but Charbanic has succeeded at least at that.

The lead detective in the case, Campbell (James Spader), mainlines drugs to help him deal with his job-caused mental problems. He is derogatorily referred to by his coworkers as "Captain Barbiturates" for his drug habit, something that seems to affect the cast, whose lifeless acting make them all appear to be on downers. Watching actors who look like they might fall asleep at any moment can be rather sleep-inducing for an audience. Of course, the movie is frequently so ridiculous that your own laughter may keep you awake.

As the killer named Griffin, Keanu Reeves (THE MATRIX's poster boy) appears a lot saner than the detective who is trailing him. Griffin is a loyal kind of guy who brings his killing spree to Chicago when Campbell moves there. Campbell, in long and excruciatingly boring scenes, bares his soul to his psychiatrist, played with more wood than a Giant Sequoia by Marisa Tomei. Griffith is a meticulous killer who watches his victims for weeks before strangling them, typically in their homes. A student of forensics, he is tough to catch. To give Campbell a better chance, Griffin starts FedExing the pictures of his intended victims to Campbell, who, unfortunately, has a bad habit of not opening his mail for days.

The movie's sparse dialog features such gems as: "Goodness gracious, nothing like a good serial killer to kick off the holiday season." This leaves the visuals to carry the movie, which they can't. Long lethargic sections of film are interrupted briefly by hyperactive video segments. These grainy, choppy, blurry video images look like they were shot on a cheap camcorder by a drunk at a New Year's Eve Party.

The ludicrous aspects of the script by David Elliot and Clay Ayers are almost endless, but let me mention just four: 1) They have a high quality color picture of one victim, but the poster that they cover the town with has such a low contrast black-and-white picture on it that you can't tell that it was the same woman. 2) Campbell and Co. usually spend all day looking for the victim and then find her just a few seconds too late. 3) Detective Hollis (Chris Ellis) has a cell phone discussion with Campbell while weaving in and out of traffic during a high-speed car chase. Campbell offers to call him back, but, driving wildly with one-hand, Hollis says that isn't necessary. 4) With the entire front-end of his car in three-foot-high flames, Griffin drives it away rather than abandoning it or switching cars.

It is no wonder then that our audience was laughing at the picture on the way out. When Campbell utters the movie's last line, "Time's up," my immediate reaction was, "yes, but not nearly soon enough."

THE WATCHER runs 1:33. It is rated R for violence and language. Having remarkably little gore and reasonably tame language, it would be acceptable for most teenagers, but I would not recommend it to anyone.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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