A pain in the neck
The Watcher
Review by Ross Anthony

Spader's tough, but depressed, cop performance is mesmerizing. How could anybody in their right mind be afraid of Keanu Reeves? That takes an expert actor. Spader does such a great job that you might even come to fear Keanu too ... a little bit? Maybe? Well, fear not (er, I mean, don't worry), there's a good movie here -- even if the bad guy isn't all that frightening.

Basically, Spader, out on workman's comp because of the drugs for the insomnia and migraines due in part to an LA serial strangler (Reeves), has moved to Chicago in search of peace and a good psychologist. Unfortunately, Reeves, missing the special way Spader used to pursue him, packs his piano wire and sets up shop in the windy city.

Psychologist (Tomei), "Maybe you're just afraid."
Spader, "You're f-ing right I'm afraid."

This well paced film, backed by thumpin' tunes, moves with strength. All involved act well, with Spader topping the list; though his later scenes aren't too bad, Reeves is simply miscast. (Leave the pretty-boy crazed killer gig to Brad Pitt.)

Another major distraction to the project is overuse of a passé digital effect - strobe. Every time the image juts across the screen, my teeth grind. But maybe I'm biased, thinking it pretty cool, I overused that effect myself many years ago with my own shorts. Seeing it here nauseated me while denigrating the overall quality of the production.

Also, midway into the story, Reeves steps into Spader's psychologist's office posing as a potential patient. This new twist to the personal game of chess between he and Spader waxes extremely promising. Terribly intrigued to see it develop, audiences may very well be dismayed when it drops out of the film like a dead body.

Lastly in a third act face to face, a gritty overworked Spader draws his gun on a smilingly giddy unarmed Reeves; sorry, I don't believe Spader would turn an ear before taking a shot at some limb or other.

Still, overall, a very strong B+. This film is stirring, has action, humor, and great dialogue (the Spader character is artfully drawn and portrayed). It's not all that scary, though a few victims do get a bit choked up - you probably won't.

  • The Watcher. Copyright © 2000. Rated R.
  • Starring James Spader, Marisa Tomei, Ernie Hudson, Chris Ellis, Keanu Reeves.
  • Directed by Joe Charbanic.
  • Screenplay by David Elliot and Clay Ayers.
  • Produced by Christopher Eberts, Elliot Lewitt, Jeff Rice, and Nile Niami at Universal/Interlight(C)2000.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:49:48 PDT