It's hard to make a serial killer film these days that can outdo the labyrinthian plot twists and suspense seen in movies like Silence of the Lambs and Seven. The Watcher tries to be that film, but fails with a laughable outcome.
"You're my job; you're paperwork" is the line Joel Campbell (James Spader) uses to taunt his serial killer nemesis, David Allen Griffin (Keanu Reeves). I'm not sure what kind of a mood the film-makers were trying to create at this point (it all looks quite serious, especially when Griffin takes a deep breath in reaction to that comment) but I was laughing uncontrollably. That's how watching the The Watcher was to me for the most part.
The plot is very straight-forward: Campbell is a washed-up FBI agent who has lost it after losing yet another victim to Griffin. But Griffin is attached to Campbell like a brother and follows him from LA to Chicago (this topic is the subject of an amusing debate between the two, with lines like: "we define each other; we're Yin and Yang"). Griffin's killings are interestingly staged: he sends a picture of the victim to Campbell who has one day to find the person before she's strangled with a piano wire. This aspect of the film, where Campbell has to race against the clock to find Griffin's next victim, is the most interesting and also most telling about the nature of people's attitude towards missing people. How many of us can claim to have any recollection of the person we last saw on a "missing" poster?
The movie tries to impart some significance to the relationship between a killer and his hunter. The idea being that both of them give a sense of purpose and meaning to each others' lives. However, the dialogue used to achieve this is laughable. The acting in general is passable with Spader doing a good job considering the material he is handed. Reeves and Tomei complement each other, the former having his standard "what the hell just happened" look (which worked so well in The Matrix) and the latter looking as though she was on a trip of her own. The cinematography is excellent, and the flashback perspectives of Griffin and Campbell are done intelligently. This technique would've been more effective in a better movie.
The Watcher has its gory moments, but nothing that can't be handled by a desensitised Hollywood movie watcher. I'd recommend skipping this one or renting it if you're really bored.