Suspect Zero


Director: E. Elias Merhige

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Suspect Zero is a film that belongs to Ben Kingsley as Benjamin O'Ryan. He is the villain & hero wrapped up in one, a killer of serial killers. He is the last of five remote viewers a secret FBI project had set up to track serial killers, all of whom went mad from the experience. He is pursuing the theoretical Suspect Zero -- the atomic bomb of all serial killers -- whom everyone else believes is the product of O'Ryan's deteriorating mind.

Kingsley plays this jittery, dangerous, mentally ill man with a stunning balance of suavity & repugnancy, & has vastly more complexity & emotion in one gaze of his eyes than any other actor in the film ever musters for any scene.

Unfortunately Kingsley isn't the central character & we are asked instead to relate to FBI agent Thomas Mackelway as point of view character. As played by the non-charismatic unsexy uninteresting Aaron Eckhart, one never overcomes the sense that he'd be better cast in background roles like bartender or cop at third desk or extra person on elevator. The leading lady is written as standard love-interest, & they take turns crabbing at each other & revealing their love -- a very unrewarding role for Carrie-Anne Moss who is a better actor than Eckhart but nevertheless 90% inconsequential to the plot.

Director E. Elias Merhige's tedious experimental film Begotten (1991) has horrific images & some symbolic crap conveying the brutality of creation, in the main a very lame film with more pretentions than art, though it does show the extremes Merhige might be willing to go for imagery. He also made the very remarkable horror film Shadow of the Vampire (2000) with Willem Defoe in the strangest, funniest, coolest Nosferatu of all time. But Suspect Zero simply does not revisit either Begotten's daring imagery or Shadow's inventive wit.

The scriptwriter, Zak Penn, wrote & directed a low budget horror mocumentary Incident at Loch Ness (2004) which stars himself as a sociopathic producer who has hornswoggled Werner Herzog into directing his documentary about the Loch Ness monster. That strange little film is brilliant. Penn has not as yet written anything else any good, unless kiddy-crap like Inspector Gadget or no-story-required Elektra are your cup of warm milk. With Suspect Zero he attempts to be gritty, but the story elements were never solid, as the sloppy & unconvincing climactic scenes most reveal.

Suspect Zero moves at a snail's pace & only comes alive in a very few of Kingsley's scenes, mainly in the measily two scenes where he tracks down & kills serial killers law enforcement has never detected. His other scenes of sitting still doing his remote viewing are inert & even a great actor like Kingsley can't save such badly written scenes. The director & scriptwriter apparently believed the idea of remote viewing was so credible & so exciting that watching someone sit still doing it would be woo-hoo thrilling, but it wasn't.

In the DVD "extras" is an even more boring promotional piece for remote viewing that You Too can learn to do, trucking out some of the leading crackpots in the commercial field of selling remote viewing to a gullible superstitious public, such as certainly are using only about one percent of their brains. Using professional crackpots to promote one's lame film is fine so far as it goes, but since the director himself appears in the interviews seemingly a True Believer, it could well be that one reason the movie is so bad is because he wasn't so much telling a weird tale as selling an occult notion. It'st he difference between a full-bodied ghost story, & someone who just wants you to believe their grandma appeared before them on the night she died.

The story is all leading up to jittery O'Ryan taking boring Mackelway to a distant rural house where they see torture equipment by looking in the window, then walk behind the house & see grave-mounds out the back door going off to the horizon, the bodies so minimally buried that O'Ryan can sweep away a bit of dirt with his hands to reveal an arm.

The fact that anyone who ever drove down that backroad could've spotted the same scene, & that the first rain would've washed the grave mounds flat revealing the corpses, & that no effort was made to keep anyone knocking on the door from seeing into windows, all made it highly improbable that a magical remote viewer was needed to catch this easy-to-spot mass-killer's lair before now. So it's not much of a climax, & the super-killer Suspect Zero is quite easily captured & his head mashed in without much of a fight, he's barely even a character & conveys nothing about himself of even slight interest.

Then Kingsley commits suicide by FBI agent, which could've been done with any cop or agent anuywhere, the script very unconvincingly asserts it could only have been that day with these characters.

The cinematography is occasionally very moody & startling, but badly sustained. One also wonders why it is such a bloodless gutless film visually. It implies some gross stuff, but it shows almost nothing, all qluite suitable to the corpse reveal in any episode of CSI on television. Even the torture chamber is only shown obliquely through a window & there's no blood on any of it.

So not only is it a badly written very unconvincing story, it is even badly done for the exploitation value of its mass-murder theme. One would think if a filmmaker wanted to make such a wussy film he'd choose a wussy theme.

Still, as a cheap rental it's worth it for Kingsley's two or three intense scenes. Even though it's not likely such a slight scrawny old man could pull a young strong rapist right out of a car window & kick him to death with no risk to himself, Kingsley's good enough to make at least that much of the film convincing.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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