Suspect Zero Movie Review

I suspect that zero is moderately close to the number of viewers who will be impressed with Suspect Zero. Another by-the-book serial killer thriller that uses David Fincher's Seven as its guide, Zero takes a clever premise and buries it beneath layers of substandard detective clichés and crude camera tricks meant to deceive us. It's so desperate to keep us in the dark for as long as physically possible that it finally begins to lose its own way.

The mouse in this stock cat and mouse game is disgraced FBI agent Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart), a dedicated G-man with a high-profile blemish on his service record. His grievous error on a previous case earned him a demotion to the Bureau's dead-end Albuquerque office, though it's not long before Mackelway's hot on the trail of another cold-blooded killer. This wandering murderer (Ben Kingsley) exhibits no motive and establishes no pattern to his killings, but enjoys faxing Mackelway clues to drag the investigator deeper into a series of perplexing mind games.

The idea of casting Kingsley, who once played Gandhi, as a sadistic killer still tickles the imagination, even if it has been done before - and better - in Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast. But because Zero director E. Elias Merhige commits himself to the Seven formula, Sir Ben's screen time is restricted to glorified cameos in the film's first half, leading up to a meatier role by the film's conclusion (think Kevin Spacey in Fincher's masterpiece without the shock value that part carried).

That leaves us with passive Eckhart, his erratic partner/lover (Carrie-Anne Moss), and a handful of unnecessary distractions tossed in by Merhige and screenwriter Zak Penn to throw us off a trail we could never pick up on our own anyway. Split-personality theories, GPS coordinates and Mackelway's omnipresent migraine headaches all have us looking left whenever Zero decides it wants to fake right. Merhige experiments with grainy visuals and scarlet filters, but there's no reason for the gimmicks when he employs them, and they ultimately point out how vanilla the film would be if he had left well enough alone.

Ironically, Zero conjures a decent explanation for all the mysterious happenings that clog the film's first half. In hindsight, Penn manages to answer a lot of questions that are raised by the story, and the conclusion turns out to be a lot better than the beginning. Unfortunately, very few people will have the patience to wade through the conventional to reach the lone twist that sets Zero apart from its competition.

An alternate ending is included on the DVD along with a commentary track, an extensive making-of featurette, and a "remote viewing" demonstration that is pretty far from credible.

Suspect: Pretty lights.


Suspect Zero Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, 2004


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