a critiQal film review Suspect Zero (2004)

  • DVD

Plot: FBI Agent Thomas Mackelway (Eckhart) and Agent Fran Kulok (Moss) are put on the trail of Ben O'Ryan (Kingsley), a serial killer who exclusively targets other serial killers. As the investigation proceeds, the agents begin to become aware of the possible existence of Suspect Zero, a mythical "super serial killer" responsible for hundreds of deaths across all 50 States who leaves no evidence behind to link his crimes together. The agents must decide if O'Ryan is the key that will allow them to catch Suspect Zero, or if he is Suspect Zero himself.

667 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 20s)
  • ...lead by a slightly less impressive Eckhart, a decent Kingsley and a sadly misused Carrie-Anne Moss, the film quickly turns from an intriguing thriller into a psycho-dramatic mess.

Aaron Eckhart, Carrie-Anne Moss and Ben Kingsley in a thriller that came out during the summer of 2004 and I’d never heard of it? Wow – Suspect Zero has already caught my interest. The eye-catching red zero on the cover paused my scrolling through movies to watch instantly via NetFlix®. Once I’d learned more about the film, I just had to check it out.

Would Suspect Zero be a hidden gem amidst the mass of NetFlix® flims available to watch instantly, or is there a reason I’d never heard of this one?

Aaron Eckhart, who did a decent job in The Core (2003), the hit the big time with the recent blockbuster The Dark Knight (2008), plays a FBI agent this time around. Saddled with a troubled past and migraines, his character is a lot the worse for wear even before the film even starts, but Eckhart’s clean-cut exterior doesn’t show it at first glance. As with his later role in The Dark Knight (2008), that clean-cut exterior is beaten away during the course of the film to expose a harder edge underneath. Sadly, however, Eckhart doesn’t connect with the viewers nearly as well as he did as Harvey Dent, and so the fate of his Agent Mackelway is never really something viewers will worry about.

Carrie-Anne Moss is barely existent in the film, and the few scenes where she’s anything except for a errand runner for Eckhart’s Mackelway are so jumbled up with images from their shared history, any sort of meaning in them is hard to come by. Toss in a clumsy sexual attraction between the two that never leads the film anywhere, and viewers may wonder how Carrie-Anne could have made such a misstep. Who knows, maybe her character looked to have some sort of meaning on paper that never translated to film.

Ben Kingsley, as an atypical bad guy, plays his part decently enough, and he does try to get behind his character’s story. Unfortunately, since the viewer can never really understand him as a character, his efforts are also largely wasted. Still, there are moments before the film becomes too wrapped up in itself, where Kingsley does a good imitation of a serial killer – something viewers would not have expected him to be able to play quite so well.

While starting out to be a decent film, centering around a serial killer who targets serial killers, Suspect Zero soon adds to many other sections, including remote viewing, a government hush-hush program, a psychological mind game – and that’s just to name a few. With all these threads woven into the plot, the film could easily have chosen many different paths to go. Rather than choose one path and follow it to it’s end, however, it tries to combine all these different items into one rather generic finale that feels decidedly un-climactic and rushed.

Helping the film feel even more bloated is it’s extensive use of flashbacks and it’s inconsistency at showcasing remote viewing. The remote viewing aspect would have been the easiest, and at first it seems defined by a red layering at the start of the “viewing”. Later on, however, that disappears, only to be replaced by a pixellating effect. The viewer does figure out that they are witnessing another “viewing” easily enough, but a consistency throughout the film would have been preferred. A toning down of the music would have helped as well, since the music tends to overwhelm some scenes with it’s dire overtones, rather than complement them.

Starting off decently enough, Suspect Zero ends up being more like a mash-up of favorite thriller themes than a merging of those themes. The film, lead by a slightly less impressive Eckhart, a decent Kingsley and a sadly misused Carrie-Anne Moss, turns quickly from an intriguing thriller to a sort of psycho-dramatic mess, tossing in ill-used subplot after subplot on it’s way to a rather generic finale.

It’s too bad really – if they had kept things simpler, Suspect Zero would have been far better off.

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