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Suspect Zero (2004) – DVD Review

Suspect Zero DVD


Written by Zak Penn and Billy Ray
Directed by E. Elias Merhige
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Ben Kingsley, Carrie-Anne Moss


  • Running audio commentary with director Merhige
  • Featurette: What We See When We Close Our Eyes
  • Remote viewing demonstration
  • Alternate ending with optional commentary by Merhige

Released by: Paramount
Rating: R
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Fans of the genre should consider it.

Benjamin O’Ryan (Kingsley) used to be a FBI agent. That changed when he became part of a program to track serial killers. He learned the techniques of remote viewing, psychically picking up on the details of murders, even seeing these horrible crimes through the killer’s eyes. Of course being that close to evil changes you. He has directed that darkness against those who he previously observed. O’Ryan now hunts his targets himself and he kills what he catches. And he’s after two targets. One is another FBI agent, Thomas Mackelway (Eckhart). He’s on the outs with the Bureau for extraditing a suspect by knocking him unconscious and putting him in his truck. Mackelway, along with his partner Fran Kulok (Moss), are trying to catch O’Ryan. But O’Ryan can literally see one step ahead of them. He knows that Mackelway has the same gift or curse and is pushing him so he can help O’Ryan with the second target: the Moby Dick of serial killers, a killer whose pattern is no pattern, whose hunting ground is the entire United States. This is Suspect Zero. But with O’Ryan unraveling, Mackelway conflicted between justice and loyalty to the FBI, and a murderer whose avoided detection for years–the differences between predator and prey are becoming confused.

[ad#longpost]Another serial killer movie. Yes, Hollywood loves the serial killer. And we got all the classic clichés in this film. There’s the brilliant but troubled FBI agent played so badly by Eckhart. Why does the protagonist always have to be working out some trauma or tragedy? I wonder if writers are just lazy in their character development or they think the audience can’t handle someone who’s smart and happy. We also got the boss who thinks the hero is completely off base but, of course, the audience knows our hero is right on the money. Again, another lazy way to generate tension–or maybe the writers could be projecting how they feel about the studio executives they deal with. There’s also the sexual tension between Eckhart and his partner Kulok. That trick is as old as the Hollywood hills and frankly Moss had more chemistry with Keanu Reeves during the Matrix trilogy. And if the script wasn’t bad enough, the director seems to have copied the shooting script from Se7en to use here. The proof? Lots of colored filters, jerky jump cuts, and weird camera angles.

What’s even worse is that the movie takes two interesting concepts and completely fucks them up. First, there’s the serial killer who has no deep neurosis or is a criminal mastermind. He kills randomly and seemingly for the joy of killing. With no pattern, M.O., or evidence, there is nothing for the various law enforcement jurisdictions to latch on to. But the movie does nothing with this concept. The killer remains a simple McGuffin and never gives a sense of evil or dread to the audience. So why should they care about the pursuit and capture of this most unusual killer? Then there’s the whole “remote viewing” concept. Kingsley’s character is driven nearly insane by witnessing horrible acts while in the viewing trance. But that idea seems almost quaint in this age of video voyeurism and “if it bleeds, it leads.” Would a trained FBI agent really be that disturbed by what he saw in his third eye? Would the FBI let someone with O’Ryan’s abilities run around free? The whole concept of a secret project to create remote viewers is nowhere near developed enough to be believable. The remote viewing is just a slightly more exotic version of the “intuition” that allows investigators to make amazing leaps of deduction. It’s a waste–like this whole movie.

The extras are a little odd. Instead of talking about the movie, they focus on the phenomenon of remote viewing. Everyone involved with the movie seems to be so fascinated by it. The director even tries his hand at viewing and of course he does well at it. Remote viewing is treated as accepted fact, without any sort of skepticism or doubt. The main proof they seem to have is that the government spent a bunch of money on it. Now, I have an open mind, but it seems that the director is so open that his brain fell out. And after this, he went to record his commentary. He forgot that he worked with a script and a cast. It’s all about him and what he did. He doesn’t even do the happy talk about how wonderful the cast was to work with. I wish I was psychic so I could have avoided Suspect Zero, since the movie and the special features killed several hours of my time.

Buy it from Amazon.