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The Watcher (2000)

Directed by Joe Charbanic  Story by David Elliot & Darcy Meyers  Screenplay by David Elliot & Cllay Ayers

   Two names enter my mind upon hearing Keanu Reeves: Ted and Johnny Utah. Yea OK, I guess Neo too but it was slightly difficult to enjoy those movies simply because in my head no matter what line I heard him say, I kept hearing the surfer accent he has become quite notorious for. Which is not to state that I haven’t enjoyed some of his other films were that is not the case: The Devil’s Advocate, Speed and The Replacements. But those were overall due to the fact that as a whole they were some pretty entertaining films. So thinking of Keanu as a killer would certainly be the furthest thing from my mind when thinking of “the one.” Though I just so happen to enjoy James Spader in whichever role I get to catch him in so what drew me to this movie was not simply seeing if Reeves was able to pull it off.

   We begin with the opening credits intertwined within somewhat scattered images of a chase scene in which Campbell (Spader) is running after our killer. Campbell ceased by a car that almost runs him over and turns back to save the victim, giving the indication that it’s perhaps someone close to him. We are then given an aerial view of helicopters flying into the city as police race to block off streets and race towards a building, working their way up. We get glimpses of a more generous in size Keanu (looked good on him) who is “dancing” to Rob Zombie’s Dragula. Looking more awkward than anything else as the police bust through the door and the scene fades.

   Simply playing with the audience, we are taken into real-time where Campbell is seen discussing the same murderer. Having left a clear imprint on his brain; only a couple of years after the opening incident had occurred. Speaking in a sort of idealistic manner to his therapist and explaining that this killer was very aware of what he is doing. Acquainted with police procedures, careful not to leave any evidence, picking victims he watched for weeks before finally pouncing. Every move carefully calculated. Once arriving home we see him take medication, taking notice to a package of which he’s in no hurry to open. A defeatist attitude overcoming our protagonist as he reminisces of what once was. As day falls to night, Griffin (Reeves) has found a way of getting inside his adversaries mind, speaking of a shared time in their past being their finest moment. Campbell is constantly reminded of being so close to capturing the killer when having attacked a loved one of his own, being tormented by what could have been. Keeping medicated as frequent as possible having caused physical as well as psychological damage. 

   Having long since retired Campbell makes it clear he’s in no mood to be stopped by frivolous police tape as he walks straight through to his apartment. Stopped by officer Hollis (Chris Ellis) who briefly questions him wondering if he had even noticed the police tape surrounding the entire block. He did, just didn’t care and I don’t blame him. Finally deciding to open the FedEx package he received, he finds a picture of a woman recalling a previous package; with yet another photo of a different woman. Reaching Hollis as soon as possible to state that he had known who has committing the crimes briefly discussed, convening at the police station to further investigate the issue. Explaining how he had previously worked on the case for a little over 3 years with the slightest chance of it not being the same person but knowing better.

   Ibby (Ernie Hudson) grudgingly insist Campbell with the case, doing so simply because of his 3 year start, declining and later visiting his ex at her grave-site. We also catch a different angle keeping a fine eye on Campbell periodically through his everyday life. Speaking with his therapist once again, played by Marisa Tomei, who asks if he planned on living off retirement forever. Countering with a defensive response to explain the amount of drugs having to inject into his body, daily, just to be able to sleep. He receives a call later that night from Griffin, explaining that he wouldn’t be able to make things work with the officer. Purely a game for the killer, he continues to send pictures of his victims to Campbell, giving him until the next day at 9 PM to locate the target.

   The next morning he’s awakened by a knock at the door with a deliver of flowers and card attached with the picture. Immediately finding Ibby to state of how he was now interested in picking the case back up. They decide to go public with the photo in hopes of finding her within the allotted time as the city races to beat the clock. Scouting the mall she works at, they barely miss her but are finally able to piece together the background of her photo. Being far too late as the clock strikes 9 with Griffin already having waited for his victim to return home. Immediately claiming his next target which was a young homeless girl begging for change.

   While eating at a regular restaurant of his with Hollis, he remembers something Griffin had stated about keeping an eye on him. Pretending to go to the restroom, he sneaks out the back and finds the suspect. Ensuing in a brief chase scene in which he gets even closer to him but alas, makes his daring escape as expected. Of course; you can’t just let him win 50 minutes into the movie! The next day he has another appointment with Polly (therapist) as it seems Griffin gets off in the sense of danger. A familiar face catches up with the elevator and rides the long way up in complete silence. An unbelievable tension that you cannot believe your witnessing. It’s not like you were on the search for a killer whose following your every move and whose face you have no idea what looks like. -_-

 Polly picks up a new patient and Griffin has prepared for what would be a future victim. This one hitting home to Campbell once again. Another failed attempt to save the second victim leads to the same type of chase seen time and time again. We get it. Put into the hospital from the amount of stress, it seems the police department had received one last photo from Griffin with Campbell watching closely, getting the message loud and clear. Ripping out his IV’s and exiting the hospital, I guess it’s just that easy, he finds himself at the grave visited earlier with a surprise guest; Griffin. Offering nothing more than a nice cold beer and some conversation. What follows next was a bit odd as the two go for a ride so that Campbell is able to see for his own eyes if Polly was okay. He even gives him his gun and doesn’t seem too discomforted by the situation which may sound a bit careless but at this point, knowing he didn’t want him dead just yet. The fact that he used the time to call Hollis and have the call traced helped as well. Taking us back to the oh so nice “dancing” moves seen in the beginning, reaching the conclusion. Griffin admits needing Campbell, that they completed one another other; yadda yadda. Making the dynamic between the two seeming a bit too much like the Joker and Batman which…I mean, you just don’t compare, if your picking up what I’m putting down.

Final thoughts: All in all, it’s shot as a regular detective cat and mouse filck because at its base line that’s what it is. If you’re a fan of Spader than he’s certainly worth seeing the movie for. He played a great cop. Tomei is barely seen throughout the film so it was difficult to form an actual opinion of her though I didn’t seeing another familiar face in that aspect. Which leaves s with Keanu. I found him to be too funny for this particular type of role although I do wonder how much better/worse the movie may have been with someone else in his place. He tried to play the comical psychopath but caught up in that first half which inevitably ruined the “killer” aspect.

   There is a bit of a twist involved with Campbell’s ex that doesn’t connect until well into the movie which was a “ah ha” kinda moment. But nothing really adding to the story. The music in the film was also a bit too cheesy when simple piano keys could have sufficed. This was the directors only movie having shot since and prior of which was quite a shame. The film had some considerably great shots as well as cut scenes in the midst of Griffin’s death exhibitions that were nicely put together. As an added mark they let the audience see through the killers eyes which was displayed as a shoddy type documentary style which wasn’t all too bad. You certainly wont be scared or surprised necessarily with any components in the film so it’s ones own personal reasons if choosing to view. although I will say I have seen worse and hey, I got to see Reeves attempt at being stone cold killer.