The Watcher
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.

Directed by:
Joe Charbanic

James Spader
Keanu Reeves
Ernie Hudson
Chris Ellis
Marisa Tomei

Written by:
David Elliott 
Clay Ayers
Darcy Meyers




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