The Watcher (2000)

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Released 4-Feb-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 92:34
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Joe Charbanic
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Keanu Reeves
James Spader
Marisa Tomei
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $31.95 Music Marco Beltrami


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    I must admit I'm a big fan of James Spader, even though his career seems to have been on hold for a long time. Every movie I've seen him in he's been good. It was no surprise, therefore, that I found The Watcher to be quite a watchable movie without being especially memorable. Much in the mold of movies like Kiss The Girls and Hannibal (but thankfully without gratuitous gore), this is a well-paced thriller with even a decent performance by Keanu Reeves (who is not one of my favourite actors) to round it out.

    FBI agent Joel Campbell (Spader) is a physical and mental wreck. After chasing a serial killer, David Allen Griffin (Reeves) for over three years he loses his wife in a fire set by Griffin. In his desire to catch the rapidly escaping psycho he leaves his wife vulnerable. Realising his mistake, he tries to return to her, but she is consumed and he loses not only his wife, but his prey and almost his sanity. After this, Campbell turns to drugs and leaves L.A for Chicago to forget the pain. He steadily falls into a cycle of pain killers and sleeping pills. A year later and Griffin has tracked him down. He wants to begin the game again as if it gives his life meaning and he needs Campbell to resume the chase.

    A master of the cat and mouse game, Griffin tempts Campbell with the one thing he knows he can't resist, a picture of his next intended victim with a 24 hour time limit in which to track her down and save her. Campbell, though, is barely able to function and must now set about catching his old nemesis, only now the rules have changed. Besides catching the man known as the Watcher, he must also try and save the life of his victim and rediscover himself before it's too late.

    Although I've watched a lot of slasher-cum-psycho-cum-serial killer movies over the year, there doesn't seem to be any lack of ideas or new wrinkles on an old theme. If you've seen Along Comes A Spider, much of this is similar in many respects and won't seem new, but the writers were a little more consistent (in my mind) with the plot line in this movie and remained nicely within the genre. There are no real surprises with this effort from first time director Joe Charbanic. Instead of playing mind games with the audience he basically lays it all out and lets the actors build the tension without the usual mulch. It gives a nice slant on the typical movie of this type. The Watcher might not be everyone's cup of tea but it doesn't drag its heels or become boring and although you couldn't compare this movie to true classics like Silence Of The Lambs or my personal favourite Citizen X, it plays out fairly well until the rather predictable ending.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is another nicely presented transfer to DVD. There were few blemishes, mostly minor, but the quality was right up there with the best.

    Displayed in 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced, this is the same as the theatrical release.

    A sharp, crisp picture is the order of the day. Some slight edge enhancement was noticed but it was so minor that only the general quality of the rest of the video makes me note its presence. Shadow detail is nicely defined in almost every way, darkly lit sets included. There is sufficient background detail to please the most discerning and low level noise is not an issue. The most impressive aspect is the almost total lack of grain.

    For the most part, the colour is spot on with no sign of bleed or oversaturation. The palette, while not large was suitably used. Neon signs against black backgrounds looked very natural (if overly bright). Occasionally there is a slight redness in the skin tones, and the final pyrotechnics looked a little unnatural but overall very good.

    Basically there were no problems with MPEG or film artefacts. The usual little blemishes were totally absent with only the merest break-up to offend the eye, but nothing worth reporting. I couldn't detect a single imperfection in my viewing which was very pleasing.

    The subtitles are highly abbreviated and you'll miss a lot of what is being said. All the swearing and much of the detail is left out, probably for simplicity, but you do lose a lot. The font is good; very clear and easily readable.

    This was a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio was probably not quite as good as the video, but still very presentable. There is only one soundtrack available here, a Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 kilobits per second in English. Although the audio is not especially overpowering, every now and then you will experience a dynamic sound that sweeps through and around you. Unfortunately, this was too uncommon and for the most part you'll have to be content with the solid sound from the front channels, with subdued sound from the rears

    There were no problems with the dialogue or syncing that I could detect.

    The music is by Marco Beltrami and I guess the best thing you can say about it is that it was unnoticeable in the main, which is always a good sign, in that it wasn't discordant or disruptive to the flow of the movie.

    Occasionally you'll get a real sense of power from the surrounds. As I mentioned earlier, this isn't sustained throughout the movie but there is activity detectable from the rears to give this a much fuller soundstage than would otherwise be on offer.

    The .1 channel cuts in now and again with some deep rumbling but its use is hardly consistent which is a shame. For the most part, the subwoofer activity remains at a subconscious level.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    None; absolutely sweet bugger all!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this DVD includes production notes, the theatrical trailer, biographies and DVD-ROM extras. If extras are your thing, then the Region 1 version may be worth considering.

Summary

    The Watcher is a very watchable movie in the serial-killer/psycho genre. Nothing too much to get overly excited about though - this is no Hannibal with lots of gore. Decent acting makes the plot move along nicely and it's something worth watching on a dark and stormy night when there's nothing on TV.

    The video is excellent and very watchable. The ultimate pyrotechnics look shonky, but then this isn't a big budget movie obviously and DVD really does show the flaws in bad CGI.

    The audio does its job although the lack of subwoofer and intermittent use of the surrounds didn't add greatly to what could have been a very moody element.

    The extras don't exist. A main menu doesn't count, sorry!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Monday, February 18, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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