The Watcher (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I can remember two things about this film from when it was in theaters (not long ago)

They advertised the daylights out of it. I don't watch any TV except when I walk past and my daughter is watching. Despite that, I saw several ads for it. They released it to 2800 theaters, presumably hopeful of substantial success, which never materialized. It bombed.

The critics hated it. Hated, hated, hated. That made me wonder why the filmmakers thought it might be a hit, when it was so obvious that it didn't have the righrt stuff.

It turns out that there is an explanation. This is really two movies, not one. The first one isn't bad (if a bit hackneyed), but the second one is dreadful. Whatever promise may have been present in the first half was betrayed by the sheer lack of imagination in the last hour. I suppose some of the studio people saw the raw potential and overlooked the boring delivery. Wrong call.

James Spader plays an FBI agent who cannot solve a serial muder case in L.A., puts himself on a leave of absence, and moves to Chicago for psychiatric counseling and general burn-out recovery. We see eventually that he had a special relationship with one of the victims. Keanu Reeves plays the serial killer, who becomes bored in L.A. without his special adversary, a Moriarty stranded without his Holmes, who must therefore move to Chicago to re-involve his nemesis.


Spader is just turning into a general druggie when he discovers that Keanu has been sending him pictures of his victims before they are dead, luring Spader back into the cat 'n mouse game by making him realize that he can save the victims if he can identify them and find them soon enough. He generally doesn't.

That was the part of the movie I liked - the mental chase.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no significant features

The second half of the movie is just the physical chase, and it's about as exciting as dishwater. Cars zoom through the city, helicopters converge on co-ordinates, SWAT guys break down doors, guys run across rooftops and through alleys - the usual stuff that happens in every crime movie and every TV cop show.

Spader and Keanu do OK, and the director comes up with some rapid-fire rock video technique that's moderately interesting, but there's just nothing there for the last hour, and that makes it a pretty lame film overall.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 16% positive overall, and a perfect zero from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.5
  • With their dollars ... it did take in $28 million dollars domestically, which would be a major success for a film from Woody Allen or Robert Altman, but this film cost $34 million, was promoted heavily, and was released to 2800 screens. By those terms, it bombed.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. Sub-par genre picture that is an OK watch on late night cable, but not worth rearranging your schedule for. Promising first half, but the last half is a TV cop show.

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