'Suspect Zero' *** 041405
DVD Review (2004)


The Work = ***
So, I just wrote a review of 'Crimson Rivers 2' which I enjoyed more or less on the bases that I shut off my brain and went along for the ride. I bring that up because I am having difficulty in explaining why I could not do the same for 'Suspect Zero'. I believe it may have to do with 'Crimson Rivers 2' leaning more to the side of fantasy and 'Suspect Zero' leaning more to the side of realism. I am much more willing to overlook some holes if a film is clearly a fantasy.

Maybe it is not the fantasy versus realism at all. Maybe it is just that 'Suspect Zero' is a slower film and did not hold my interest as much. Besides it has a strong fantasy element running through it; the practice of remote viewing. Remote viewing basically involves a character meditating and telekinetically picturing events happening else ware. Of course the movie acts as if it is a real science and everything else in the film seems to err on the side of realism based depictions of the events.

Whatever the case, 'Suspect Zero' is not something I can heartily recommend. I say try renting it first if you are interested. The film is really just a so-so entry in the serial killer crime drama sub genre that is standing in the wake of 'Se7en'. It does have some new takes on the genre but they are not enough to make it groundbreaking.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to say that if you don’t know anything about the film I will be using spoiler warnings and that will take up a large section of the review so there probably isn’t much more to read other than the very end of the review. BEGINNING OF SPOILERS:

One of the reasons that the film might have dragged in places is for much of the movie I already knew some of the twists. I got Benjamin O’Ryan (Ben Kingsley) was more or less a serial killer killing serial killers. Either it was the fault of the trailer that I saw months ago when it was in theaters or it was the way it was set up in the film early on. In any case I got it, so that whole revelation was taken away.

Any suspense leading up to the discovery of his victims crimes missed me since I saw it coming. That made it all the more frustrating towards the end of the film when no one believed Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart) when he spoke about being hip to Kingsley’s true nature. It just seemed kind of annoying.

Basically the plot is Mackelway is a disgraced FBI man tracking down O’Ryan with Fran Kulok (Carrie-Anne Moss) in tow. He naturally does not have much clout but he is only one who seems have real insight into the crimes. To complicate matters O’Ryan constantly faxes victim lists to Mackelway. O’Ryan has the ability to practice remote viewing which allows him to “see” serial killers committing acts. Haunted by these visions he tries to take them down.

Mackelway too has visions, though not as clear as O’Ryan’s. This would seem to make him the prime candidate to understand O’Ryan. Let me ask you something, if O’Ryan is so smart and clever as to avoid the FBI and do all these crazy things why not just tell Mackelway the situation in one of the faxes? I mean it couldn’t seem any more ridiculous than the clues he is leaving him anyway. END OF SPOILERS

In the end I will give this a marginal recommendation. The film did drag in places but it wasn’t a bad film. Sections were extremely well done and it has two good central performances from Kingsley and Eckhart. I guess maybe it is a moody rental. I wish Kingsley had been onscreen more.

DVD = ***

The Look
Paramount has given 'Suspect Zero' a nice anamorphic transfer. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The movie uses a variety of distortion effects on the images in the movie and the transfer handled them well. There was grain present but I’m sure it was intentional.

The Sound
'Suspect Zero' gets a nice Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix. Dialogue and sound effects came through clearly.

The Bonus
Hoo boy! Was I in for a surprise with these. Again if you have not seen the film, get ready BEGINNING OF SPOILERS: Alrighty’, so in thinking about writing my review of the film I was thinking about writing that the film takes the fantasy stance that people can have telekinetic abilities and the government has been exploiting it X Men style. Turns out the director seems to think that is more fact than fiction.

In fact the four featurettes on the DVD do not focus on the making of 'Suspect Zero' but instead focus on remote viewing and how the government spent millions in the 70s experimenting on it. Wow, was I not ready to see this stuff treated so seriously. I’m not trying to be a skeptic here but if this stuff is so successful why is it not more widely used? I mean if it is so accurate why not try predicting more important events?

There is yet another featurette on the director learning about remote viewing by being asked to try it himself. He is asked to write down his impression of a location that two people go to with out telling him. While he sits writing, they go visit a giant bridge and then come back. His descriptive terms and doodles that he comes up with do sort of fit the bridge.

He is clearly blown away by the experience. While it is neat to see, I ask you what was it that Merhige’s predictions were actually describing? I mean yes, many of the things fit the bridge but couldn’t they have been just as easily applied to other structures. Yes, Merhige identifies the bridge but by his own admission it was the only structure for miles around. I don’t mean to be a cynic but come on. END OF SPOILERS

There is also a commentary by E. Elias Merhige and a scene cut from one of the four featurettes on remote viewing. The cut scene is hidden easter egg found in the special features menu. The commentary comes off as so pretentious and monotonous it almost seems like a joke. Good gravy, lighten up Merhige. Right from the get go he says he didn’t want to make a serial killer genre film which of course is more or less exactly what he made. This is a very slow track heavy with on screen narration and only the occasional tidbit of info by Merhige.

All together = ***
E. Elias Merhige directed the wonderful 'Shadow of the Vampire'. Opening shots of Kingsley brought up memories of Dafoe as the monster in the previous film. Unfortunately I enjoyed that film a lot more. 'Suspect Zero' stands in the wake of films like 'Se7en' and its followers. While it does do some new things and has a sort of neat concept, as a whole it falls short. It doesn’t help that the features are pretty weak too. Still the performances are good and the look is moody so I give it a marginal recommendation.


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