New to Me is a series here at The Nerds Templar where we discuss a film that has been out for a while. It’s most likely available on home video or streaming services, but it’s our first time seeing it. Hence, it’s “New to Me“!
Earlier this month Mill Creek Entertainment put out a DVD of The Watcher. Despite starring James Spader, Keanu Reeves and Marisa Tomei and being 22 years old, I either had never seen the film before or just simply don’t remember it. After watching it, I can understand why it’s not a film that gets brought up often.
Spader plays an FBI agent who moves to Chicago after a serial killer he was pursuing in Los Angeles kills someone he knows. Reeves plays that killer and he follows Spader to Chicago to start killing again. Tomei is Spader’s therapist he sees because his life is a mess filled with migraines and regret. When Reeves starts sending Spader pictures of his next targets, Spader heads back to the job to finally stop the mad man.
This film came out after The Matrix. That’s important to remember because after The Matrix was released films looked much different. They wanted to be edgy and hip because The Matrix changed the game. Unfortunately The Watcher feels extremely dated because of it. It’s only 22 years old, but looks much older. The editing, the out of focus flashback type scenes and scenes where someone is being “watched” look bad. It’s like when you got your first digital camera and took a lot of pictures out of focus because you didn’t wait for it to focus properly. It was the look they were going for back then, but it does not hold up at all. Between its look, the clothing, music and cell phones, the entire film looks from that certain time period.
The other issue with the film besides its style is the acting. Spader is ok at best, but doesn’t have a lot to work with. Tomei only has a few scenes, but she’s fine. Reeves on the other hand isn’t good. He was actually nominated for a Razzie for his performance and I get it. Maybe we aren’t used to him being a bad guy, but he’s not very good here. He’s very wooden and one-dimensional which is shocking because he’s always been a charismatic guy whether it was his early comedies, his 90s action persona, as Neo in The Matrix and now in his John Wick phase. His performance is almost like a Wish.com version of Keanu Reeves.
Not to be confused with Watcher which I reviewed recently and Ryan Murphy’s The Watcher series on Netflix, The Watcher is a lesser known film from 2000 with an A-list cast, but ends up as a D-list film. I’ve seen made for video/streaming action movies look better and hold up better. Reeves wanted nothing to do with the movie and only did it because according to him his signature was forged and he didn’t want to get into a lengthy legal battle. His performance clearly shows that. If you are a Spader or Reeves diehard you have to see it, but other than that, there’s good reason this isn’t a film we all reference as top-notch and don’t remember.