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Movie Review

The Watcher

MPAA Rating: R for violence and language

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

Very Offensive
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1 hr. 35 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Keanu Reeves plays a sadistic killer in The Watcher
Featuring: James Spader, Marisa Tomei, Ernie Hudson, Chris Ellis, Keanu Reeves
Director: Joe Charbanic
Producer: Christopher Eberts, Elliott Lewitt, Jeff Rice, Nile Niami
Distributor: Universal Pictures

Movies about serial killers are inherently dangerous, in that non-murderous psychotics could be further desensitized and pushed over the edge into copycat crimes. But as long as they sell, they’ll continue to be made; several have been released this year alone. The field is so crowded that it seems new approaches are necessary; this film features a killer who actually stalks the agent who’s on his case (that’s already been done: “In the Line of Fire”, for instance), and it sometimes looks and sounds like a music video.

James Spader in “The Watcher”

Joel Campbell (James Spader) is an FBI agent who tracked a serial killer in L.A. until Campbell’s lover was killed (the circumstances are explained piece by piece in flashbacks). He took disability retirement, moved to Chicago, sees a therapist (Marisa Tomei) and lives in a haze of prescription drugs. But the killer, David Allen Griffin (Keanu Reeves), has followed him there and deliberately involves him in a new set of killings by mailing him a picture of each intended victim and giving him until 9 PM that day to find her before she’s abducted. Campbell is reinstated and allowed to work the case. Perhaps the idea of the media broadcasting a photo all day, and no one recognizing the picture and calling the police in time to save her, is meant as some kind of social commentary about us being too busy and not being connected to our neighbors. Other than that, the film presents nothing new that’s worth mentioning. It’s not only bad in the sense that all psycho movies are bad; it’s below average in plot and production values. Even the acting isn’t that great. I’d have thought the low-emotion Reeves would make a convincing killer, but he’s more effective playing the good guy (as in “Speed”).

Content Warnings: The profanity is as would be expected in this type of film, somewhere between strong and extreme (25+ uses of f*). There’s no nudity (except for some art sketches) and no sexual activity; the killer never rapes his victims. He does dance with one victim and kiss her through the duct tape on her mouth, while simultaneously strangling her with piano wire. It’s disturbing to watch innocent people be randomly targeted for death and then miss being rescued by just a few minutes. If there’s any redeeming value in the plot or the ending, it went over my head. Many films released at this time of year were originally intended for summer, but were judged by their owners to be below par and relegated to the fall schedule. I suspect this one is in that category. In any case, I recommend passing it up.

Viewer Comments
…The movie is about how relationships work in our society. The serial killer is aware of his victim’s schedule and life. More so than the victim’s parents and friends. The serial killer, like stalkers, are under the delusion that he is familiar with his detective. It makes one wonder: what makes for attachment in a world where families are strangers and strangers, like therapists, are family? And, is a negative bond better than no bond at all? Christians will be offended by strangulation scenes, profanity, and the body of murder victims. A Christian theme popped up in this film. We are told in the Bible that the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The unnamed serial killer stalks and studies his victims. He knows how to entice them. (This is played up more in the trailer than in the film) He knows how to lead them into his snare. He smiles at them with the intention to kill, steal, and destroy. And this serial killer destroys girls because it will upset the detective, in just the same way that Satan seeks to destroy man because of his hatred for God. The Avenger detective is a nice symbol of the wounded avenger. The movie is predictable and those Christians who like detective movies might enjoy it. It is not the best movie of all time, but neither is it the worst. And it is definitely not for children or for the squeamish. While “The Watcher” is not “the scariest movie of the year,” it still has gore and much violence. And the stalking factor might bother some women. My Ratings: [2/3]
—Carole Mcdonnell, age 40
Movie Critics
…sex, a staple of the genre, is given only brief mention along with some nude sketches and an underwear catalog…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…at least 26 uses of the ‘f’ word…
…one of the most pitiful thrillers I’ve ever seen…
—Christopher Null,