Wednesday, December 14, 2011

REVIEW: Suspect Zero (2004)

Suspect Zero is a fraudulent and meaningless film that attempts to be artful but comes off as entirely idiotic and pointless. It is an insanely pretentious, confusing mess of a film, and I really can’t see any redeeming factors in it. The characters are stock, the writing is boring, the directing is complete try-hard nonsense…everything about it sucks! Do I even have to review it? Might as well save myself the time and energy now. This isn’t even worth talking about. So there, I’m done with this one – NEXT!

Wait, what do you mean my family is being held hostage by hungry Brazilian terrorists and will be killed if I don’t actually review this film? Well, damn. FOR MY FAMILY I will persevere!

Director: E. Elias Merhige
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Aaron Eckhart, Carrie-Ann Moss

Director E. Elias Merhige apparently believes that cinema is the only meaningful form of art anymore. The fact that he says that while putting out dreck like this is just hilarious, as this is art-less, confused slop like none I've ever seen. It's tough to bash a movie made by well-meaning, honest and nice people, but when I get one like this, pretentiously made by a pretentious twat of the highest order? It's like Christmas come early. Let's get started with this systematic beating.

The film begins with some fat bald guy getting jump scare’d by a happy couple running around outside. Good news, though, you can’t possibly be more of a pussy than this guy. He then gets jump scare’d DOUBLE by Academy Award winning actor Ben Kingsley, whose participation in this film is completely a mystery to me. Maybe they promised him some pot brownies or something. He certainly acts like he’s on drugs during this whole thing. I’ve seen more sober performances from Bill and Ted.

He looks like he's seeing right through your SOUL.

So yeah, he gets in the back seat of the guy’s car magically, I guess, and kills him by fading into the next scene!

Dammit Ben Kingsley, stop popping up in the back of my car seat! I know you played Gandhi, but that excuse just isn't gonna hold up forever you know! You gotta get your life in order.

Then we get to meet superstar FBI agent Aaron Eckhart, who is so cool that his scenes sometimes get to be shot with SUPER HIGH TECH red filters!

...because there's something wrong with just shooting this like a regular shot? Even if it's some kind of weird psychic vision, it just breaks up the film when it's done so randomly like this.

He goes to the crime scene of the guy who was killed in the opening and sees that his eyelids were cut off, which has the unique effect of making his eyes look really strange.

Now you know he'll have to look you in the eye when he's talking to you...

Eckhart gets put on the case with his old flame Trinity from the Matrix series - yes, really - who in this movie is a local cop who needs to work with the FBI for...unstated reasons. I guess they couldn't have just had her working with him from the beginning? It's not like their relationship plays a huge role or anything. But that doesn't stop them from talking about it in the most obnoxiously cliched ways ever! It goes kinda like this:

ECKHART: You just stay out of my way, because I'm over you and in charge of this case! I'm going to act stoic and silent not because that's my personality, but because I'm a poorly written and half-baked protagonist!

TRINITY: Oh you never change, always ignoring me and trying to be in control, just like when we were in a relationship! Even though this is work and I should be able to put that behind me, I'm bringing it up anyway just because that's what one-time lovers who have to work together do in these movies! Blah blah blah...

So they go to this halfway house where Ben Kingsley supposedly stayed, and find out that he lived in a basement full of cliché serial killer stuff like newspaper clippings, writings on the wall and crazy looking drawings right out of Se7en. Because otherwise he just wouldn’t be edgy enough! And the movie understands that there are no other ways to convey insanity and depravity besides showing these stock, over-used tropes that have been done in literally every other serial killer movie ever made. Uh huh. Not like you could have had, I don't know, actual character depth and good writing instead, right? No? Okay then.

What, writings on the wall? Only crazy people do that!
And only crazy people collect newspaper clippings! I deduce from my extremely limited, biased POV that this guy must be nuts.

After that we see a girl getting kidnapped and raped; don’t you just love how tasteful this movie is? Luckily the guy gets killed by Kingsley, though. Kingsley also leaves a special message for Eckhart, because apparently the rapist guy was the one who got Eckhart suspended from the force back in the day…I don’t know, the connection between Eckhart and Kingsley throughout the whole film is tenuous at best. The character relationships in this film all feel SO half-assed and underdeveloped. It expects you to follow along with Eckhart and his ex, and also with Kingsley and Eckhart's 'psychic bond' thing, but none of it is ever really explained or given any significance. It's just put on the backburner for the psychological cop thriller story, except THAT sucks too! So really, what are you left with but a big old dusty corpse of a film with nothing to offer at all?

So then they go to see this doctor who used to know Kingsley. Apparently Kingsley was part of some experiment by the government to give him the power to read the minds of serial killers. The good ol doc says that Kingsley believes in a super serial killer called Suspect Zero who kills people all over the United States and has never been caught. Geez, must really rack up the car bills, huh? How do you think he pays those, anyway? Does he double as some kind of traveling salesman or something? Granted, the idea is cool, but it’s just not explained that well, and the way it’s presented is pretty goofy at best. I mean we’re really supposed to buy this? A few killings in a couple of states, sure, but look at this map Kingsley has:


THAT MANY killings all over the country??? Maybe if they had just limited it to one or two Suspect Zero killings in MOST of the states I wouldn’t complain, but the fact that there are so many is just insane!

And also, this government experiment lets him see what serial killers are doing? How does that even work? Are serial killers some kind of special breed of human being now? How did they make it so he didn’t just pick up what some random Joe was doing on the street? Score one for extremely specific government psychic powers, I guess.

After that we see Eckhart brooding and sitting alone while researching more stuff about the case, because it’s all you need to know about his character. And then you get Ben Kingsley crying silent cinematic tears while having spastic daydreams of random killings – yup, these two things sum up the next half hour or so of the film. Snooooooooooze. Here is another one of the movie’s main problems actually; THE DIRECTING IS CRAP. Seriously, it’s hard to enjoy this movie when every other scene has these random effects filters over it:

Well, okay, this one is a flashback...but there's another flashback in this movie and it's NOT shot in random sepia-toned filters, so what the hell?

It’s like the director is projecting his mental vomit onto the screen. We really don’t need to see all this schizophrenic kid-hyped-on-sugar-style directing to get the point of the story. It’s not even that complex of a story really. Why all the pointless masturbation of effects? It's like the director's only real concept for how to put this movie together was the 'PowerPoint slide show style,' with random images flashing on screen, interrupting the story, trying to show us their significance but ultimately failing, because there is no significance. Alright, look, I'm gonna have to go into rant mode here: 

Just throw all of these scenes, with their terrible directing choices and poor attempts at symbolism, into what I like to call the Artistic Garbage Bin – the place where movies like this are destined to go. It is a place for films which pile on the arty, faux-pretentious camera shots and symbolism and everything else, and yet say nothing of worth. What is Suspect Zero saying? That it would really suck if you had to see people doing horrible things to each other in your dreams all the time? Yeah, I don’t know. I think you’re going to need a better purpose than that, movie. To the Artistic Garbage Bin with you!

But the movie plods on with more nonsense as Eckhart discovers Kingsley’s secret, that he’s been killing people who killed other people. Kingsley finally seeks him out and kidnaps him, tying him up and gagging him BECAUSE…I really don’t know. Kingsley’s acting gets really over the top, too, as he SHOUTS random WORDS in HIS sentences with no real rhyme or REASON to it! And why couldn’t he just TALK to Eckhart; what’s up with the bondage? He even puts him in handcuffs when they go out together. I think the director was just living out some kind of weird Aaron Eckhart in handcuffs fantasy…eugh.

They eventually find out that Suspect Zero lives on some ranch and takes kids there to kill them from all over the country – seems highly impractical and prone for errors, but hey, I’m not the one with enough time to kill that many people. I guess I shouldn’t be talking. Eckhart kills the guy, and then Kingsley gets Trinity to kill him by pretending to attack Eckhart, as he just can’t take the pain anymore. What an underwhelming ending. I’ve had more emotional attachment to used chopsticks. I’ve seen documentaries about dung beetles with more drama. What a load of baboon hair shavings!

This movie is a mess! It’s just so confusing and so boring that it can’t possibly appeal to anyone but the most die-hard fans of these kinds of cop/serial killer flicks, and even then they probably wouldn’t like it much. It’s just garbage; pure, complete garbage. I hate this movie – I hate the pretentiously serious tone it has. I hate the weird, spazzoid directing style that can’t even convey the simple, droll storyline with any kind of coherence. I hate the bland, shapeless lumps the film tries to pass across as characters. I hate the fact that this film was so dull I couldn’t even make any good jokes about it; this isn't my usual keep for reviewing, you know. I'm glad I never have to watch this again. Now can you please release my family, Brazilian terrorists? Pretty please?