If The Watcher was a food product, it would be in one of those clear plastic containers with a white label and big black letters that read Serial Killer Movie. The Watcher could not be more generic.
In one of the worst typecasting moves of the decade, Keanu Reeves (The Replacements), plays David Allen Geffen, a serial killer. Geffen’s method of killing his victims is to choke them to death with piano chords. The audience knows this because we see scenes where Geffen kills his victims again and again. Each time, the violence is more gratuitous than the last. In a genre that already has too many entries that are just abominable, The Watcher adds absolutely nothing that is original, surprising or even entertaining. The death scenes are something filmgoers have seen before in movies such as Copycat, or Dee Snider Wastelands.
James Spader (Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Stargate) plays James Campbell, the FBI agent who is attempting to save the young women Geffen prays on before the killer can get to them. Marissa Tomei plays Campbell’s psychiatrist, love interest and feature woman in peril. Tomei displays little acting skill in her role.
The only other actor of note in the film is Ernie Hudson ( The Hand that Rocks the Cradle), who plays Campbell’s boss. Why any of these skilled/semi-skilled actors looked at this script and agreed to be in this movie is a question we may never answer.
Some may argue that Reeves does not have the acting ability needed to pull off portraying a serial killer. After all, look at some of the other actors who have portrayed serial killers incredibly well in past films. Actors like Sir Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lamb or Kevin Spacey in Seven.
But Reeves could have been perfect in this kind of role. After all, women are attracted to him, especially when he flashes his winning smile and puts on a shy guy persona. Reeves’ character ends up looking like the kind of guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Indeed, the scenes in which Reeves first meets his intended victims might be the only redeeming scenes in The Watcher . But they aren’t enough to make the film a worthwhile experience.
The Watcher also tries to make itself weightier by attempting to confront the ills of society. Campbell, at one point, tries to save one of Geffen’s intended victims by getting on TV and handing out flyers. When the tactic doesn’t work, Geffen comments how ironic it is that we all live on top of each other, yet we don’t see one another. It’s hard to care when this kind of line is said in this mess of a film.
The Watcher is both too long and not long enough. In its terse 90 minutes, the audience gets a long car chase, a couple of near-identical death scenes and very little dialogue. The movie also leaves its audience with many questions. Who is Geffen? Why does he kill? Furthermore, why does Reeves dance to White Zombie music before a kill? The audience never finds out the answers to these questions, and the film doesn’t attempt to make you care about the answers.
Does anyone wonder why Reeves has yet to move into the elite of Hollywood actors? One reason could be is that he follows his blockbuster successes with pure garbage. After the hit Speed, Reeves made Johnny Pneumonic and Chain Reaction. After The Matrix, he comes out with this film. Reeves should get a new agent.