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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Watcher
The Watcher
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted February 3, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

"The Watcher" had many excited to see the first major performance from Keanu Reeves where he played a bad guy, everyone except for Reeves, that is. The actor was reportedly unhappy with the final product and didn't do promotion for the film. Reeves stars as David Griffin, a killer who follows former FBI agent Campbell(James Spader) to Chicago to continue the chaos he started in LA, looking for a reaction from the burned-out Campbell.

Campbell recieves pictures of the girls who will be the victims and gives Campbell a short time to find them before he does. A scene early in the film where they're looking for a girl is very eerie as shots of the city streets and hundreds of people show her to be anywhere. Spader plays Campbell in a low-key performance that is fairly interesting to watch at times, but not always engaging. Reeves is, well, how Reeves is traditionally seen by many - rather bland, but using it here for the character.

First time director Joe Charbanic attempts to do a little too much in the way of music-video style, with camera tricks that call too much attention to themselves at times. Marco Beltrami's score also doesn't help things, as it's simply an odd mix of strange sounds and the usual stereotypical thriller score. He doesn't particularly do much for the suspense, either - although the film runs pretty quickly at 97 minutes, there's not a great deal of tension to the proceedings. The last confrontation between the two involves Spader's character attempting to find his psychologist (Marisa Tomei in an unfortunately bad role) before Griffin can harm her.

This may be a film that interests Reeves fans eager to see him in something different as a rental, but otherwise it's a pretty predictable affair, not going anywhere interesting in its rather quick running time.


The DVD

VIDEO: Universal has done a fine job with the image quality for "The Watcher"; although I'm not particularly interested in the music-video look of the movie, at least sharpness and detail are strong, and several shots of the city streets are particularly crisp and well-defined, capturing every detail. Softness doesn't creep in, and even the darkest scenes (and there are plenty of dark sequences in this film) look nicely detailed.

I didn't notice much in the way of problems, either. A couple of slight traces of pixelation are hardly noticable, and aside from a few small speckles, there really isn't anything in the way of print flaws. Shimmering and other flaws are absent, as well. Flesh tones are accurate, and colors are often cold and bleak, although some scenes look more natural. This is a very strong presentation, one of Universal's recent best.

SOUND: "The Watcher" is given an often excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation that, while the movie doesn't always give solid scares, the audio at least makes an energetic attempt to keep us engaged in whatever is happening in the current scene - there's a good deal of ambient sounds of the city - cars passing by, elevated subway trains, etc, that are widely spread out around the viewer and often becomes enveloping. Surround use is not constant, but can be very agressive when they are used. Beltrami's score thumps away, but doesn't cause much in the way of tension or interest. Dialogue is clear and easily heard; a good soundtrack - not constantly active, but quite active at times.

MENUS:: Although menus aren't animated, at least the main menu offers a preview of Beltrami's weird score.

EXTRAS: Production notes, theatrical trailer(1.85:1/Dolby 2.0), DVD-ROM features including screensavers and web-links.

Final Thoughts:

Positive: Universal's DVD offers very good audio/video quality.

Negative: The movie isn't great and there isn't much of anything in the way of extras which is suprising as the particularly awful "Skulls", which did similar business for Universal, recieved special edition treatment. Still, I guess I can understand those involved here not being eager to participate. For Reeves fans, this may be a rental.

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