Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Suspect Zero

This week's movie is Suspect Zero (2004). A mostly sidelined crime/horror thriller, Suspect Zero stars Ben Kingsley as a serial killer who kills other serial killers and Aaron Eckart as the FBI agent trying to catch him. Watching it I was struck by it's similarity to Se7en (1995). The main killer, O'Ryan (Kingsley), communicates with Mackelway (Eckert) making him integral to the puzzle and solution of how to catch him.

Kingsley gives as creepy and compelling a performance as Kevin Spacey did in Se7en but manages to invest a shade of empathy for him that makes you more uncomfortable than the unvarnished evil of Spacey's John Doe.

In Se7en, Brad Pitt seemed to move in slow motion, pacing himself to Morgan Freeman's measured narration. Eckert exudes tension and fatigue all through Suspect Zero, making his emotional collapses believable. By the time the final scenes roll around you wonder if Mackelway will fall victim to the manipulations of O'Ryan.

Carrie Anne Moss portrays Mackelway's partner, Fran Kulok. I know from Memento (2000) that Carrie-Anne Moss is capable of being something other than wooden on the screen, unfortunately there is only one scene where she emotes at all in Suspect Zero. Mackelway is convinced he knows O'Ryan's motives and goes to Kulok's hotel room looking for a sense of support - an understanding that he is not moving in the direction of insanity. Kulok declines to accompany Mackelway back to the office and urges him to come into her room. Moss manages to convey helplessness and concern over her partner's slide into intuitive leaps and obsessing. Other than those 2 minutes, Kulok is a two dimentional cypher.

Bottom line: Suspect Zero needed Morgan Freeman. Freeman brings depth to whatever project he is working on and Aaron Eckert and Ben Kingsley's performances were better than Pitt and Spacey's. Plus, Suspect Zero didn't have the gratuitous nastiness that was in Se7en.

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