The Watcher (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/03/2001

1 out of 5stars
Running time: 97 mins

Ineptly-directed, woefully derivative and laughably bad serial killer movie, from which only James Spader emerges relatively unscathed.

You have to wonder about Keanu Reeves’ choice of roles, sometimes. You can see why he chose his role in last week’s The Gift, for example – subverting his image a little, allowing him to be mean and violent and just about getting away with it, owing to the supporting nature of the part. As to why he took the role of serial killer Griffen, however, one can only assume he did it as a favour to director Charbanic (who’d directed a number of videos for Keanu’s band Dogstar), because he’s horribly, horribly miscast here.

So, like, ten points for messing with your Major Movie Star Action Hero image a bit more, Mr Keanu, but minus several million for cocking it up so spectacularly.

James Spader plays ex-FBI Agent Joel Campbell. Unable to deal with the traumatic death of the woman he loved, he has relocated from L.A. to Chicago in order to be near her grave. In doing so he has walked away from the serial killer case he had been pursuing for the previous three years, thereby denying himself closure over his role in his lover’s death.

Initially content to wallow in a haze of pills, migraine medicine injections, self-pity and therapy sessions with Friendly Psychiatrist Marisa Tomei, Campbell is nonetheless forced back onto the case when it transpires that the killer (Keanu Reeves) has also relocated to Chicago because "it just wasn’t the same without (him)"!

There is an air of tired predictability hanging over all this, as Keanu murders his way through a succession of pretty victims in order to taunt Campbell – he mails him a photo of every victim 12 hours before he kills them. Directors Charbanic and Jensen leave no visual cliché unmined, from the police helicopters to the death-trap warehouse filled with candles for ‘atmosphere’.

There’s also a tiresome amount of MTV-style flash-cutting and camera-swirling, all of which only serves to irritate, as does the soundtrack, which is good in places and God-awful in others.

The only person to emerge remotely untainted by the proceedings is Spader - one can only assume the acting offers are thin on the ground right now, which would be a shame. At least his character is interesting, though he does tend to look eerily like a young Christopher Walken at times, right down to the thousand-yard stare.

Keanu, by contrast, is just plain unwatchable, managing neither the air of menace nor the psychological depth – by the time he tells Spader "we need each other – we’re like the brothers we never had", you’ll be cringing. As for Marisa Tomei, she is completely wasted in the film – she’s given almost nothing to do except behave very unprofessionally towards her client, and end up in mortal danger!

In short, if you really want to see Keanu "do" a bad guy, then go and see The Gift, instead, as The Watcher is unwatchable. Avoid.

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The Watcher (15)
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Content updated: 15/12/2017 10:16

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