The Watcher


Directed by: Joe Charbanic, Jeff Jensen
Written by:David Elliot, Clay Ayers
Starring: James Spader, Marisa Tomei, Keanu Reeves, Ernie Hudson, Chris Ellis
Released: March 1, 2001
Grade: C+

It seems every year we have at least one serial killer movie and The Watcher follows hot on the heels of Hannibal as entries for 2001.  Neither was particularly memorable.

Detective Joel Campbell (Spader) tried to hunt an elusive serial killer in Los Angeles who was known to have killed 11 women, all by strangulation with piano wire.  Campbell then developed a stress related drug addiction and was forced to give up his job.

Moving to Chicago, time passes and Campbell struggles to get his life back on track with the help of a psychiatrist (Tomei).  Then, someone in his building is murdered and in the mail a photograph of the victim has been sent to him.  Soon enough, he gets a phone call from his old adversary, the serial killer himself (Reeves).  It seems the detective who replaced Campbell in L.A. was no fun to work with so the killer has moved to Chicago to have Campbell reassigned to the case.

The serial killer is going to give him a fighting chance.  Each morning, a photograph will be mailed to his residence and he will have all day to track down the person in the photo to save her life.  If not, she will be killed at 9:00pm.

The Watcher is filled with all the close shaves and chase scenes that have become standard in modern day serial killer thrillers.  This film had a troubled past with Reeves agreeing to make the film several years ago before trying to back out of the deal (maybe he read the script).  After reaching agreement with the director and the studio, Reeves agreed to complete the film if he wasn't given unnecessary publicity and thus Spader and Tomei take top billing in the film's credits and posters.

All the cast have ability but none show any ingenuity with an extremely limited screenplay.  You always know where it's going and I’m sure the life of a real serial killer isn't quite so predictable - if so, they'd be easier to catch, wouldn't they?

This is the kind of film that didn't deserve a cinematic release and the public would be best seeing it direct on video.  The film's catchline on the poster warns the audience "Don't go home alone".  It's my advice is that you won't find yourself facing this predicament if you don't go at all.