The Watcher

In today's marketplace, serial killer movies abound. If there were as many actual serial killers as the movies purport, the population of the United States would not be anywhere near what it is today. Perhaps that would be a good thing, since there would probably be fewer people around to write inane serial killer movies. Another emerging trend is the first time movie director who used to be a music video director. They have experience directing, and they most likely come cheap. Combine the two and the result is The Watcher, a bad mess of a movie.

This is the first time out for music video director Joe Charbanic. He directed some of Dogstar's (A band Keanu Reeves is in) videos. The first lesson from The Watcher is that what works in a five minute video does not necessarily work in a ninety-minute movie. There are elements of style creeping out of the filth, but Charbanic uses them to excess. Useless voice-overs with dialogue from earlier in the film (to help dumber people remember plot points) abound, as do blurry, jerky, nightmare scenes and flashbacks. Of course, there are car chases that degenerate into foot chases and foot chases that turn into car chases. All of this revolves around a cat and mouse game between serial killer David Allen Griffin (Reeves, The Replacements, The Matrix) and washed out FBI agent Jack Campbell (James Spader, Supernova, Critical Care). Campbell tried to catch Griffin in Los Angeles, but was never successful. He moved to Chicago and is trying to recover from the entire fiasco with the help of psychologist Polly (Maria Tomei, Welcome to Sarajevo, The Slums of Beverly Hills).

Griffin followed Campbell to Chicago, drawing him out of his stupor and back on the job. Griffin feels the entire thing is a game, and Campbell is the only one he wants to play with. Griffin's modus operandi is to follow a young woman around for a while until he knows her schedules and habits completely. Then he will kill her, without her even knowing. For this movie's purposes, it means watching Reeves play nice to young women before murdering them. Now, Griffin is challenging Campbell by mailing him a picture of a woman. Campbell has a day to find her before Griffin kills her. Enjoyment of this film written by Clay Ayers and David Elliot requires a suspension of disbelief on many counts. The women in this film seem to feel completely comfortable walking around their apartments in the complete dark. The Chicago police department is incompetent enough in their inability to keep a spotlight on a man while he runs across a roof. Most of all, the fact that the only person able to notice clues or gain insight into the case is Campbell.

It is this lack of both plot and character development that amazingly makes The Watcher boring to watch. Charanic's continual use of cliched techniques only makes things worse. Wrapped around a story, some of his tricks would be interesting. Since there is no story here, everything becomes tedious. There really is no doubt that people will die until the end when Griffin and Campbell meet in a one on one confrontation. Nobody gives much of a performance. Reeves are Spader are not required to do much at all. Spader's character veers wildly from a calm coherent investigator to a near-junkie. Tomei's character only has a small role in the movie, and apparently decided to look as haggard as possible for most of her time on screen. If The Watcher had at least one original idea, it may be worth watching, but it doesn't.

Haro Rates It: Really Bad.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated R for violence and language.

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