CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Enrique Fernandez (Sun Sentinel), Michæl Elliott (crosswalk.com), J. Rentilly (TNT’s Rough Cut), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly), Ron Wells (fimthreat.com) and Bob Graham (San Francisco Chronicle).
* * out of 4 stars (R)
Movie critics didn’t like watching “The Watcher.” And when I saw the movie, I just wanted to salute the critics and close my eyes and sleep. However, not all critics disliked this film.
“The Watcher” is about an FBI agent named Joel Campbell (James Spader) who moved from Los Angeles to Chicago after being traumatized by a psychotic serial killer. After only a few months in the Windy City, Campbell discovers the same killer – David Allen Griffen (Keanu Reeves ) – blowing around Chicago killing more victims. So Campbell takes on the case.
Enrique Fernandez (Sun Sentinel) said, “This may be too much to ask. ‘The Watcher’ is good adventure-thriller fun. Turn your brain off and just enjoy the ride.”
You’re right! That is too much to ask. I say turn your TV on and enjoy the video when it comes out. But “The Watcher” will be hard to enjoy, so I suggest watching it from your easy chair – a convenient place to fall asleep. If the story doesn’t bore you, the over used visuals will.
Michæl Elliott (crosswalk.com) said, “Director Joe Charbanic brings his music video experience to this first feature film attempt. He uses a great deal of slow motion, stop action, and rapid cuts which results in a very stylized film.”
I could practically do this same stuff on my camcorder, Elliott! The slow-motion segments didn’t synchronize with what was taking place on film and it looked like the work of an amateur. What’s worse is that the effects were repeated over and over again. The main problem with this film was a lack of character development and a weak plot.
J. Rentilly (TNT’s Rough Cut) said, “So never mind that the back story provided Spader’s psychologically-fragile, drug-dependent ex-cop in “The Watcher” – nicknamed Captain Barbituate by one colleague – makes about as much sense as a Rush Limbaugh ærobics video.”
Now wait a minute, Rentilly. Haven’t you seen Rush lately? He’s now a thin man and actually looks pretty sharp. Don’t be surprised that if in the future Richard Simmons’ “Sweatin’ To The Oldies” video gets outsold by Rush Limbaugh’s “Dancing with The Ditto Heads.”
Spader’s character didn’t make sense, though. His personal problems disappeared as fast as Griffin eluded the cops. If only real-life problems were like that. Then there’s Chris Ellis who plays a detective who talks on a cell phone during a high-speed chase. It was actually funny! But it’s sad that Reeves chose to do a film playing a character this flawed.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “He’s limited by the fact that his killer has no real dimension or personality apart from his function as a plot device.” Keanu Reeves was a plot device (thanks to the script), but what was the purpose of all those lighted candles at the end of the movie? They were pointless props – casting light on a crappy climax scene.
Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) said, “Well, multiple candles may be a universal symbol in movies (and rock videos) for romance and spirituality. But they’re useless in illuminating the deadness of ”The Watcher.”
Regardless, someone needs to stop Keanu Reeves dead in his tracks from choosing such meaningless material so movies like this will end up where it belongs – in a video store or on cable TV.
Ron Wells (fimthreat.com) said, “The only bright spot is remembering that the two ‘Matrix’ sequels are only a couple of months away from production and that their extended shoot will protect their star from more of his bad choices for awhile.”
Bob Graham (San Francisco Chronicle) summed the movie up best: “In ‘The Watcher,’ a hodgepodge of half-baked visual styles can’t disguise the fact that this dismal thriller is all situation and no story. Not many thrills, either.” Indeed this two-star film didn’t work. As for the “Matrix” sequels?
Now that’s something to watch for.

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