Detective Campbell (James Spader) gives up on his job after trying to track down a serial killer for over three years. The detective is now alone, damaged and has little hope in life, so he decides to move to a new city where he can try and start fresh. Not long after settling in, that the mystery serial killer himself (Keanu Reeves) has followed the Detective Campbell to the new city and begins a new game which Detective Campbell must play or people will die. The killer starts sending Detective Campbell pictures of his next victim, giving him 24 hours to try to save them, or innocent people will die.
Living on the hype of the Matrix films, actor Keanu Reeves managed to squeeze in a couple of films in between the trilogy that didn’t carry a considerable acting demand or physical demands. As far as the plot of this film goes, the movie on paper does sound rather interesting and exciting. To this day, I still remember seeing this film in cinemas. Besides, who wouldn’t be curious to see actor Keanu Reeves play a creepy serial killer?
Let’s talk film effects before I discuss the plot further. The Watcher is a very dark film with most of the shots completed at night. Rewatching this film in 2018 reveals issues in regards to the choices of visual effects and style. This film includes the odd choice of camera panning/skipping shots, which are assumed to be from the perspective of our killer. It’s almost like these shots are a reduced version of the Predator scanning around. There are lighting effects which used to keep the film’s budget down, but they’re distracting. A flash of light, which fills the full screen for a split second, is used when guns are being shot instead of seeing anything from the gun itself—odd choices, but acceptable. Even in 1999, these effects were noticeable, but again fair.
As far as story and characters, they are mediocre for what should be a tense thriller. Our villain has desires to chase down our detective with Batman and Joker-like reason or purpose, but this intent is never executed correctly with any rights. There is also no back story as to why our villain is doing the odd murders. As for characters, both leads are bland and uninteresting, and give more ‘talk’ on-screen than ‘walk’. With a detective who failed over three times over and is worn out, it’s unbelievable that the FBI would ask this man to head up a task force team once again, and the list goes on.
Overall, The Watcher had the potential of being a solid thriller, but as a plot, it lacked mystery and reasoning for what we see on screen. Our two leads provides an unsatisfactory performance with very little to enjoy or remember. Forgettable.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden