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The Watcher
2000 - R - 97 Mins.
Director: Joe Charbanic
Producer: Christopher Eberts and Jeff Rice
Written By: Darcy Meyers and David Elliot
Starring: James Spader, Marisa Tomei, Ernie Hudson, Chris Eillis and Keanu Reeves as David
Review by: John Ulmer
You know when a movie boasts "and Keanu Reeves" you're in pretty big trouble.

Sometimes I go with the general flow when I put down actors. For example, Adam Sandler doesn't really bother me. He was perfect for "Happy Gilmore" (which I think is a great mindless comedy). But Keanu Reeves is one actor that I, personally, have never considered a great--much less good--actor. In "Bill and Ted" and "The Matrix" he's fine, yes, because he fits the parts given to him (new generation slackers)."Speed" is one of my all-time favorite action films, but not really because of Reeves himself.

The movies in which he is supposed to display true emotions--such as "Feeling Minnesota" or "A Walk in the Clouds"--are the ones that bother me, because I know that there are better actors putting on school plays who aren't getting paid--yet he's raking in the millions. Many of his dramatic roles are rather dry and laughable. When it comes to *real* roles, Keanu just fails miserably.

I'll explain why, since I'll probably get angry letters from "Matrix" fans and teenage girls with posters of him on their walls if I don't. My main problem with Reeves is that he's always the same. His face is always the same. His tone of voice. His expressions. His mannerisms. For the sake of comparison, imagine Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man." Now imagine Keanu Reeves trying to play Raymond Babbitt. See what I mean?

I've been observing Reeves since his days of "Bill and Ted," and my aunt adores him. I've been fed his movies for a long time. When I saw him in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," I thought he had talent. That he could really fit roles easily. Then I realized that he really WAS Ted, and that's when my expectations dropped.

But I don't want to turn this into a Keanu Reeves hating fest. The point of all those paragraphs is just an explanation of why I'm not a big fan of Mr. Keanu "Whoa" Reeves, or his dramatic cinematic ventures. I say that he should stay close to what he's good at (dumb slackers). But that's just me.

In "The Watcher," Keanu is a serial killer who toys around with an ex-FBI Agent (James Spader) whose lover Keanu killed years before in a fire. (Bad, Keanu, bad!) In fact, Joel Campbell (Spader) moved all the way to Chicago in order to escape his past, and even retired from the FBI.

Now David (Reeves) is back in Joel's life, sending him pictures of victims a day before they are to be murdered. He has twenty-four hours to find them before David does.

What a great premise. A pleasant twist on the serial killer routine, right?, not really. The direction feels like a long action-packed music video--from the opening titles blaring a loud Rob Zombie song to the end, complete with the stereotypical Killer's Point of View that was original in 1978 when John Carpenter's "Halloween" first invented it (and when it was indeed a very controversial filmmaking technique), but is now getting old since it's frequently being used incorrectly, particularly in the case of "The Watcher." Keanu's character seems to see things through some type of strobe music video vision--perhaps that explains his love of music in the film. "This is a good song," he says to one victim before strangling her.

In all honesty, "The Watcher" isn't really a truly "bad" movie (in fact, I've seen much worse), but if I had to pinpoint the problems with "The Watcher," it would be these three things:

1. Direction. Joe Charbanic, a first-time director with his outing in "The Watcher," proves that he should never get behind a camera ever again. As I mentioned before, there are just too many moments when I felt that I was watching some music video or product placement commercial instead of a smart serial killer film. Some people just aren't meant to get behind the wheel of a moving car. The same goes for a moving reel of footage.

2. The Script. What starts interesting and even compelling soon turns into a routine chase-the-killer film with extravagant car chases and bad character introductions. (Marisa Tomei's student psychiatrist is obviously there for two reasons--to fall in love with the hero and to be kidnapped by the villain. Take a wild guess if it happens or not.) In fact, this film had loads of potential to stand out amongst the rest of its kind by using the original plot--twenty-four hours to find the victim--but it is soon left forgotten and too many plot holes (why wouldn't the victim see herself on TV or on one of the millions of ads placed around Chicago?) are left unchecked.

3. The Acting. James Spader is at the very least marginally convincing as a gruff I-Don't-Care-Anymore cop, but he's no Martin Riggs. Instead, he comes off as a whiny, selfish little creep who likes to inject drugs into his body to get a momentary high. This is are hero, folks.

Also, is Keanu an invincible boogeyman or not? Lord knows that his mysterious character, David, is untouchable--he survives a foot chase without being seen, he manages to sneak past security cameras and cops and manages to kidnap/kill female victims; he survives a truly ludicrous car chase (that lowered my score for the film by a half a notch), gets shot, caught on fire, and STILL manages to jump out of a window on fire and into a lake? I half expected him to get up once more and give us all one last scare. Honestly, in "Halloween," the insinuations of Michael Myers' invincibility were more than hinted at. Here, we are left to wonder whether or not the killer is some type of supernatural force or not. The film is too eager to wrap all the loose ends up without digging deeper into the material.

Who knows, next year we could see "The Watcher II: David's Return." Maybe David will spring back to life as a burn victim's worst nightmare and wreak havoc on the lives of very distant relations. (Maybe we'll even see "Freddy vs. Jason vs. David.") What will the tagline for "The Watcher II" be? Hmm.... How about, "This's even more personal than last time." No, thanks, I'll pass.
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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