The Watcher

Like many hugely influential pop-culture phenomena, the success of The Matrix has had largely negative consequences. In addition to inspiring more atrocious spoofs and homages than any film this side of Blair Witch Project, its massive box office is probably the only thing keeping The Watcher from receiving the direct-to-video burial it richly deserves. Set in a grim, ugly Chicago where the populace runs the gamut from miserable to suicidal, The Watcher stars James Spader as a detective perpetually stymied by hunky serial killer Keanu Reeves, a Rob Zombie-loving psychopath prone to fits of spastic improvisational dance. An unpleasant, irritable fellow with a prescription-drug habit that would kill a horse, Spader is a dead-eyed shell, a reckless loner intent on embodying every obsessed-cop-on-the-edge cliché ever committed to celluloid. To help ease the psychic burden of being a tiresome walking stereotype, the otherwise friendless Spader visits pretty shrink Marisa Tomei, who seems to exist solely so Reeves will have someone Spader actually knows to kidnap for The Watcher's big climax. With his lobotomized-surfer monotone, shaggy mane, and three-day-old stubble, Reeves is the least convincing screen mass murderer in recent memory, a black-clad doofus who seems less evil and unstoppable than persistent and annoying. "We define each other," Reeves tells Spader late in the film, explicitly spelling out its theme for subtext-impaired audience members, and The Watcher itself feels defined entirely by its vague resemblance to superior films covering similar subject matter. An abysmal Seven knockoff at its core, The Watcher is a lurching headache that begs to be put out of its misery.

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