I remember as a young teenager always wanting to see The Watcher. Not for James Spader who I've only recently noticed or Marisa Tomei who redefines the need for a mature and elder sexual appetite but for Keanu Reeves, who I have loved as an A-list Hollywood actor since the release of cybergem Johnny Mnemonic. Following the release of this film, I never payed attention to its video release date and never pursued viewing it until finding a copy at our local thrift store. With top billing of James "Sexrat" Spader as a homicide detective suffering from the removed effects of trepanation and Keanu Reeves as a maniacal and loony serial killer, I felt that The Watcher had nowhere to go but up. Upon viewing I wasn't quite as right as I would have liked to be. What I received in return for a stifling price of .33 cents was one of the earlier seditious gay serial killer films.
As with most games of cat-and-mouse projected in almost every James Patterson "Alex Cross" novel or thriller period, this story involves a serial killer tormenting a subject of a previous crime. With malice and curious man-love as his initiative, Reeves follows the relocation of Joel Campbell (Spader) from Los Angeles to Chicago as he waits timelessly to rekindle his own twisted brand of anonymous, ambiguous homosexuality. After a painful opening showcasing the track that single-handedly killed the 90s, Rob Zombie's Dragula, we are tethered down and forced to watch Keanu Reeves dance around waving his(!) handgun in a shamanistic manner. Not to mention that Keanu Reeves isn't dancing to the song accordingly or the lack of music in the foreground thanks to the third wall set up by this archaic time capsule of dated editing but had they picked any other track over Dragula, the film would have been a lot better off as it brings to mind heavy doses of The Matrix and every Playstation game worthy of nostalgic memories.
The dosage of disturbing affection that was meant to ripple the waves uncorks itself near the three-quarter marker of the film. The scene's composites clue you in on this with the addition of Campbell's psychiatrist as more of a bargaining chip than a pretty supporting actress with no climaxual involvement. Once he breaks into her office searching for the recorded sessions with Campbell and escapes with his masturbatory evidence, he scrutinizes the audio in a jarring fashion while he rewinds and repeats the line of "Do you need him?" The instances of subliminal faggotry only become more intense and frequent. During the showdown in a waterfront building, The Watcher suddenly switched to the thematic innocence much alike that of The Voice of the Night penned by Dean Koontz. As Campbell and Griffin both standoff over the life of an unnecessary female element to their ragtag boy element consisting of vengeance and chase scenes, it was hard not to imagine little Colin and Roy's scuffle over poor Heather at the finale of the very same mentioned book. After all, Griffin would never let a "bitch" ruined the love he has worked so hard for, all those pretty women near or far. The opposition would never have a chance to escalate of Griffin silenced them; after dancing in front of them and embarrassing himself of course.
Throughout his victims, Griffin shows so much compassion towards them before the deed that it becomes an endearing practice, murder, that is. His slayings seems to be so intimate and personable yet disastrous as well. As I expected, Keanu Reeves made for a solid nemesis for the protagonist but I wouldn't codify him as simple as a villain. You see, Griffin's intentions are nothing more than illicit feelings for Campbell but Griffin's demeanor is largely cheerful and curious so it detracts from the actual suspense. Most of the suspense and thrills are actually on fault in part to the chase sequences, only certain ones though. The car chase scene proved to be expertly shot save for the clandestine gas station explosion. As much as the camera weaved through traffic, it couldn't sustain after Griffin lobbed the zippo lighter to ignite the building, killing 3 police officers only to make his getaway in a flaming car.
The Watcher is a self-cynical 90s thriller which spiraled the expectations pretty low for my fluctuating standards. Be that as it may, it proved to be a rather entertaining ride through the eyes of a cloak-and-dagger serial killer and James Spader whining while abusing barbiturates. Even though the effects and editing are isolated in a time of awkward practices in action/thrillers, I find that I'm able to resist slapping judgment on this film on account of its terrible grainy-viewcam that we utilize for Griffin's stalking vision or the abundant negative exposure flashes to insinuate foreboding extermination. Not to be mistaken as a film about the streets, The Watcher is about the possible dangers of homosexuality and a testament to the madness that festers within the eyes of the rich boy hustler that Reeves' has portrayed in several roles spanning his career.