review by Gregory Avery, 15 September 2000
It's definite: Keanu Reeves
gives the worst performance of the year in The Watcher.
Not that I have anything in
particular against Reeves (who can be fine when he's in the right
part) or change-of-pace roles (Robert Walker did fine playing
against-type in Strangers on a Train). Here, one of the most
recognizable movie stars in the world is cast as a notorious serial
killer whom everyone is looking for but nobody has a description of.
Thus he is able to saunter right past the investigator (James Spader)
whose life he has destroyed but who continues to search for him
anyway, then call him up at home and taunt him about what latest bit
of mayhem he is about to dish out. Unfortunately, devilish cantering
and irony are not in Reeves' repertoire, and the words fall leadenly
from his lips, as if he were in an enunciation class. I can't think
of any other performance coming close to being this grossly
unconvincing, but there's still room for doubt.
The rest of the movie isn't so hot,
either. We're back poking around in the same dark, dank,
lifelessly-colored rooms and alleyways that appeared in Seven
and, subsequently, 8 mm. and The Bone Collector, and
the movie doesn't so much let its story unfold as slowly grind it
out. Information is deliberately, and pointlessly, withheld from us
(we don't even find out that Spader's character is an F.B.I. agent
until over two-thirds of the way in), and the movie fidgets
back-and-forth between various visual styles in a way that becomes
tiresome rather than edifying. When the hero and villain finally
meet face-to-face, the film doesn't know what to do, so it stalls
some more until it can finally come up with some whammo-blammo (It
would have been better if the two had a passing, but meaningful,
encounter at the end).
As the investigator driven to save
people over and over again in order to make up for one big mistake,
James Spader gives more insight and nuance to his character than
most actors would probably dream of coming up with. When he tells
his psychiatrist (Marisa Tomei) what he has to take and inject each
day in order to get his body to work the way it's supposed to, he
seems to carry the weight of the world in his eyes, but he does so
in a way which makes us able to look at it and comprehend. His
performance deserves to be in a better movie.