Horror review: The Watcher

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 14, 2000

Poor Keanu Reeves. Even though he’s starred in such blockbuster action flicks as Speed and The Matrix, he’s never been able to live down the role he was born to play: that of empty-headed California dude Bill in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Dogstar, the rock band he plays bass for—and which likely wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for his celebrity status—can’t weasel an ounce of respect from the music press. Then there’s the fact that since day one, he’s had to put up with people calling him Kee-ah-noo, like he lived in an igloo or something.

Life ain’t been easy for the Toronto-raised actor, and it’s not gonna get any smoother once word of his latest movie, The Watcher, gets around.

Reeves plays pasty-faced serial killer David Allen Griffin, who stalks lonely young Chicago women and sends pictures of them to messed-up FBI agent Joel Campbell (James Spader), daring him to find the chosen victims before Griffin and his cool black leather coat pay them a final visit. The drug-addled Campbell is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, having been driven there by Griffin’s previous evil deeds in Los Angeles. This plot point is pounded home by endless flashbacks—shot in a blurry, slow-mo, music-video style by director Joe Charbanic—of the good guy unsuccessfully chasing the bad guy down an L.A. street.

The Watcher is Charbanic’s feature-film debut, after he directed music videos for, and a documentary on—you guessed it—Dogstar. He’s saddled with an emotionally empty script by David Elliot and Clay Ayers, which matches Reeves’s emotionally empty performance quite nicely.

A haggard-looking Marisa Tomei plays the psychologist trying to ease the migraine-prone, pill-popping FBI guy’s tortured existence, so she becomes the climactic target of the bland psycho. That plot turn’s been done before, as has the one about the hero and the villain sharing some freaky psychological bond. By bringing nothing new to the serial-killer genre, The Watcher becomes a routine and predictable flick that you could fall asleep to if it weren’t for all the cop cars crashing and things blowin’ up real good.

At least Reeves had the courtesy to keep any Dogstar tunes off the soundtrack.

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