THE WATCHER

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Jared Sandmann
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THE WATCHER - 2000
Universal Pictures
Rating: USA: R

When I first saw previews of this movie (as it was showing in theaters), I said to myself, “Great, another serial killer movie.” In my opinion, only a handful of these type of films ever work, and none within the past couple of years - with the exception of THE BONE COLLECTOR. I heard slightly good things about THE WATCHER from friends, however, so I decided to pick it up one night.

In it, former FBI agent Joel Campbell (James Spader: WOLF, SUPERNOVA) moves from Los Angeles in hopes of leaving his personal demons - and archenemy - behind. His health and memory deteriorate to the point where he begins to see a psychiatrist (played by Marisa Tomei, in a cardboard role quite opposite of her obnoxious character in My Cousin Vinny).

As he starts to piece himself back together, putting order in his chaotic life, he receives a phone call from David Allen Griffin (Keanu Reeves: BramStoker's DRACULA, THE MATRIX [all], THE GIFT), the serial killer he could not apprehend in LA. Griffin wants to continue their cat-and-mouse relationship after he had grown tired of Campbell's successor; he feels as though he and the agent are made for each other - "yin and yang," as he puts it.

By this point in the movie I was watching it for a lark. This film doesn't grab one's attention and demand to be viewed, however it should be able to hold somewhat of one's interest.

Campbell wants nothing to do with Griffin, but the murderer sends the agent clues in the form of pictures of his next targets. With each photo, Campbell has until nine o’clock that night to find the victim before they are killed with Griffin's MO - strangulation with piano wire.

Through a series of haphazard (and often confusing) flashbacks, the viewer gathers the events of the fateful night when Campbell and Griffin first met. It makes sense by the end of the film, however. THE WATCHER drags along for the first two-thirds, only to be picked up and rushed to the end half an hour later. While I'm not a fan of Reeves, he portrayed Griffin with the nice touch of solid madness and slight warmth movie-watchers have come to associate with serial killer cinema.

The directors, Joe Charbanic, and Jeff Jenson (RESURRECTION), use inventive styles of flashbacks and still-frame negatives that might work for another film, but not this one; it is too predictable. One can guess how the film will end up midway through. In addition, these different styles cannot save its lax script.

Overall, THE WATCHER is mildly entertaining to rent, though not the kind of movie I would have paid to see in the theater. I give THE WATCHER three shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.

The Watcher (2000) on IMDb
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