Thursday Night Movie Club
The Watcher
star rating graphicstar rating graphic&fract12;
Release Date: September 8, 2000

Director: Joe Charbanic & Jeff Jensen
James Spader
Marisa Tomei
Keanu Reeves
Ernie Hudson
Chris Ellis
Robert Cicchini
Yvonne Niami
Jenny McShane
Gina Alexander
Rebekah Louise Smith
Joel Campbell
David Allen Griffin
Diana (as Jennifer McShane)
The Watcher movie poster
The Watcher logoThe Watcher is a surprisingly better movie than I was expecting. I was expecting the usual mad slasher movie with the unbalanced police officer hot on his trail. Actually, this is pretty close to what the movie is about. Jack Campbell (James Spader) is an FBI agent living way over the edge. He is taking enough pills for depression and migraines to stock a pharmacy. He is trying to make sense out of his life with his sessions with a psychiatrist, Polly (Marisa Tomei).

Campbell's grief is caused by serial killer David Allen Griffin (Keanu Reeves). Griffin has followed Campbell to Chicago after strangling 11 women in Los Angeles. Griffin feels a strong affinity for Campbell. Campbell's replacement in LA wasn't up to the challenge that Griffin needed. Campbell, however, has relocated to Chicago not to escape from Griffin, but for entirely different reasons which become clear as the movie progresses.

Campbell's conflict is creatively explained through different camera techniques, from very grainy film, to slow motion, negative exposures, oblique camera angles, etc.

To add a little spice to the "game" as well as trying to hook Campbell back into the chase, Griffin begins sending photos of his victims to his adversary. He even becomes so bold as to call Campbell with the premise that he will mail a photo of his next target. Campbell will then have 24 hours to find the woman before she is murdered.

This sets up the most intriguing sequences of the film as Campbell's FBI team try to identify the nameless victim in the film. The police come close but not quite good enough.

Griffin's final victim is a no-brainer. All you have to do is read the credits. What is fascinating is that Griffin sends Campbell the wrong photo. It is of a woman that Campbell is very familiar with and only he would know the significance of this.

The only reason this review doesn't have a higher rating is that there are too many standard elements and a few shots in the movie that really make no sense for anyone familiar with Chicago. The opening scene looks really great as two SWAT helicopters fly from Lake Michigan towards Navy Pier (where are they coming from?). The other is the police using a short-cut to the northside of the city by going down LaSalle street financial district.

As for the main characters, James Spader plays one of his more normal, subdued characters. Keanu Reeves is not very menacing/sadistic as the serial killer. But I still enjoyed many aspects of the movie.