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WATCHER, THE

SYNOPSIS:
FBI agent Joel Campbell (James Spader) is resigned to an unglamorous life as a has been, taking medication for migraines, depression and loneliness, in a shabby Chicago flat – far cry from his native Los Angeles. Back there, a seriously smart serial killer eluded him; but the killings start again, this time in Chicago. The killer, David Allen Griffin (Keanu Reeves) has followed him and is now taunting him, playing catch-me-if-you-can games with him. Campbell is seeing a shrink (Marisa Tomei), but nothing helps, and when he is reluctantly dragged back into the field of operations, it is with a world-weary shuffle, not a leap of faith.

"There is the same sense of a fresh cinematic discovery in director Joe Charbanic’s work on The Watcher as we experienced in 2000 with M. Night Shayamalan’s The Sixth Sense. The two films are nothing alike, I hasten to add, except for that breath of freshness – metaphorically speaking, since The Watcher is noir-ish and slightly dank. Charbanic, from the video clip school of film making, asserts himself strongly with a sense of style driven by content, a musical sensibility that is well used here, and a natural flair for film. Taut and precise though it is, The Watcher is a psychological thriller with a difference: we are taken on a pretty hairy tour inside two minds, neither of which is pretty (sorry ‘bout that). Spader is remarkably effective as the played out agent, despite his still handsome looks, and Reeves is riveting and unsettling as the unbalanced killer. The structure of the film introduces him early, which poses new challenges for the filmmakers: we get to know him, we even get attached to his attachment to Joel Campbell, a relationship that provides the psychological payoff that many lesser psycho-thrillers don’t give us. As usual, Marisa Tomei is reliably multi-dimensional as the shrink at the centre of the mayhem, and there are countless ‘hot’ moments which bring together the film’s style and its content in exciting fashion. The Watcher is eminently watchable, but try to avoid finding out too much more about it; it’ll be more of a thrill that way."
Andrew L. Urban

 "Pursuer becomes prey in The Watcher, a gripping thriller with a top cast a satisfying twist. Yin and Yan, black and white, good and evil are pitted side by side; a serial killer is playing a deadly game, using his adversary as his audience. And what interesting casting! James Spader brings a multitude of complexities to his protagonist, while Keanu Reeves is chilling as the killer who teases and taunts. Like a cinematic jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of the mystery slowly fall into place within an effective structure: it isn't until the end of the film that all the elements come together effectively and make sense. Unlike many such thrillers that rely heavily on the revelation of the killer's identity in its the climax, The Watcher reveals Reeves at the very beginning. The fascination lies in discovering who is this character, what motivates him and what presents him with the ultimate challenge. Reeves underplays this role beautifully, creating a twisted character that is quite believable. The contrast between Spader's Campbell and Reeves’ Griffin begins as an infinite chasm that narrows as each realises the impact of the other. Evocative images in different cinematic styles add to the intensity and tension – grainy images, slo-mo and black and white negatives all add density. Just like the glimpses of people's lives in Hitchcock's Rear Window, we get a snapshot of the life of the victims and immediately become involved. And like James Stewart's wheelchair bound photojournalist with vertigo, Spader's character has both physical and mental handicaps. Music video director Joe Charbanic packs plenty of tension and suspense into these 97 minutes, aided by an electrifying score, sharp editing and big stunts. Engrossing and compelling, The Watcher is a top psycho thriller, a film full of surprises well worth watching."
Louise Keller

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

WATCHER, THE (MA)
(US)

CAST: James Spader, Marisa Tomei, Ernie Hudson, Chris Ellis and Keanu Reeves

DIRECTOR: Joe Charbanic

PRODUCER: Christopher Eberts, Elliot Lewitt, Jeff Rice, Nile Niami

SCRIPT: David Elliot and Clay Ayers (story by Darcy Meyers and David Elliot)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Chapman A.S.C.

EDITOR: Richard Nord

MUSIC: Marco Beltrami

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Brian Eatwell, Maria Caso

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 1, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video

VIDEO RELEASE (Rental): August 22, 2001

VIDEO RELEASE (Sell-Thru): February 6, 2002







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