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'The Watcher': Don't Bother

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 8, 2000


    'The Watcher' James Spader plays a tormented FBI agent in the torturous "The Watcher." (Kevin Footlik/Universal)
The movie is called "The Watcher" and, let me tell you, it's something no one should watch. Not this weekend. Not on video. Not in this lifetime.

Keanu Reeves, who must have been out of his, like, mind when he accepted this role, plays Griffin, an outwardly calm, joshy, psychotic killer who keeps sending clues about his next victim to Campbell, the FBI detective (James Spader) who's been chasing him for so long.

When we join this pathetic story, Campbell has left town and settled in Chicago, to leave the unsolved Griffin murders behind. He's also trying to get over a personal tragedy.

It seems Griffin killed a woman close to Campbell – on Campbell's watch. Poor old Campbell. Suffers bad dreams – all of them seen in obnoxious, school-of-MTV sequences, courtesy of director Joe Charbanic. And he pops all kind of medications. He's tormented, our Campbell.

Griffin knows everything. Griffin won't leave him alone. Griffin comes to Chicago to play the game again. Campbell has no choice but to pick up the gauntlet. The lonely, single women are starting to die again, Jane Doe after Jane Doe. And it's just a matter of time before Campbell's favorite acquaintance, his shrink (Marisa Tomei) is next on the chopping block.

I bet you read that again. Yes, Marisa Tomei plays a potential victim. That Academy Award has really given her the power to pick and choose, hasn't it?

Well, there you have it, another excuse for the audience to vicariously stalk women. We hang with the poor, unfortunate, single woman of the moment, as she comes home and relaxes for the evening. Of course, she heads straight for the walk-in closet where Griffin is waiting. It's just a matter of time before she's bag meat. And then it's time for the next victim. Fun, fun, fun.

I'd like to take a moment to congratulate Keanu for reaching rock bottom. There's a kind of glory in that. And I'd like to thank screenwriters Darcy Meyers and David Elliot for their valuable contribution to the culture.

As I sat there, hoping my brain wouldn't seep out of my skull with disgust, I wondered if they were actually making club-handed references to Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" (Griffin's taunting, charming relationship with Campbell) and "Shadow of a Doubt" (Griffin likes to dance with his victims before offing them). But then again, naaah. These were probably just references to the latest pile of psycho-killer flicks they rented from the video store to crib for this screenplay. What was I thinking?

THE WATCHER (R, 93 minutes)– Contains women in vulnerable situations, violence and obscenity.


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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