The Watcher (2000)
USA / English
"Don't go home alone. "A detective (James Spader) tracking a serial killer (Keanu Reeves) gives up all hope of solving the crimes and moves to another city...
Fascinating psychological portrait
Joel Campbell (James Spader) is an FBI agent on leave. He literally
"left" his home base in Los Angeles, defeated, because of a
particularly hairy case involving an unusually devious, crafty and
risk-loving serial killer who went by the name of David Allen Griffin
(Keanu Reeves). The Watcher begins with Campbell resettled in Chicago,
trying to put his life back in order. But what will happen when Griffin
shows up in the Windy City? This is an unusual film in many ways.
Although on one level it's a fairly standard thriller with Reeves
playing a subtly twisted baddie, it's really a complex psychological
portrait that focuses more on Spader as Campbell.
Campbell's life is a mess in Chicago. He can't work and he can barely
take care of himself. He looks and feels miserable. His apartment
reflects his life--though sparse in content, it's extremely unkempt and
unhealthy looking. He is having continual nightmares. He has to inject
himself in the stomach with prescription drugs to get over panic
attacks and to enable at least a couple hours sleep at night. Of course
Campbell is making regular visits to a psychiatrist, Dr. Polly Beilman
He became such a wreck because of being wrapped up so long with the
Griffin case. Griffin regularly toyed with Campbell, communicating with
him and even giving him clues so that Campbell would be able to almost
but not quite beat Griffin to the punch. Amusingly, director Joe
Charbanic portrays Griffin as more well adjusted and much more focused
As Dr. Beilman discerns, Griffin was Campbell's raison d'etre for so
long--almost his sole concern--that abandoning the case resulted in
Campbell effectively abandoning his life. Thus Charbanic gives us a
clever, ethically gray twist. Griffin may be beneficial to Campbell; he
may be the only one who can get him back on track. Likewise, Griffin is
shown to be a bit lost without Campbell. It creates a fascinating
psychological dependency in a twisted relationship that mirrors the two
other male-female relationships that propel the plot, providing a
subtext about co-dependency and slightly off-kilter, questionably
healthy relationships in general.
Although Reeves is often criticized for his acting ability, The Watcher
is an excellent example of what that is unjustified. It's not that
Reeves doesn't have range. It's that he's extremely subtle. He's not an
actor to chew scenery. His Griffin is really just as psychotic as, say,
De Niro's Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976) or Jack Nicholson's Jack
Torrance in The Shining (1980), but Reeves isn't usually one to
maniacally chop down a door with an axe and crazily intone "Heeeere's
Johnny", you have to watch him closer than that to see the character.
Even when he's in full action mode, either as a killer, as he is here,
or as a superhero, as in The Matrix (1999), Reeves is all about a kind
of quiet control. It's not a better or worse style than De Niro or
Nicholson, just different. Spader also gives a finely tuned
performance. As the character requirements have it, he's a fine
complement for Reeves, somewhat paralleling Reeves' style, somewhat
providing a counterpoint.
The film has interesting things to say about anonymity in modern
societies, especially big cities. Griffin is able to play the games he
does only because so many people are faceless and ignored.
Charbanic films The Watcher with a unique visual style can be
"arty"--especially during the flashbacks--and conventionally build
suspense at the same time. He's also aided by a great score (including
a couple brief snippets of Reeves "dancing" to Rob Zombie) and
attractive production design.
The Watcher isn't the typical "10 out of 10" film, as its surface gloss
is more pedestrian than the usual film of that caliber. But if you dig
just a little deeper, you'll find gold.
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|Storage device:||Divx 4|