Movie Review
Suspect Zero
Director: E. Elias Merhige
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Aaron Eckhart, Carrie Ann Moss

sometimes I feel like a barely restrained collection of rash, inappropriate impulses. Nary a day goes by that I don’t want to do at least five unspeakable things that could get me beaten, arrested or both.

The guy on line at the coffee shop, the one bitching at the girl behind the counter because his trendy vente vanilla-mocha latte half-caff has one grain of sugar too many in it? Yeah, you. I oughta slap that cup right out of your cranky mitt just as you’re finally getting the hell out of my way so I can get my house blend. The regular one. The one I can order all by myself in, like, three seconds, without incident. Like a grown-up. Just as you’re finally going to leave I want to block you like a playground basketball showboat going in for a steal and just bring my palm down on that cup hard and fast and “TWHACK!” And while you’re still standing there, dumbstruck, trying to collect yourself, I’ll do the “raise the roof” dance in your face before making a victory lap around the café. I think people would appreciate that. I know the barista would.

”The Matrix has you!”

That absolutely enormous gumball machine full of jawbreaker-sized, rainbow-colored gumballs? The seven-foot-tall one that must be holding at least 200 lb.’s worth of gumballs at the shopping center? You know who you are. The desire to take a baseball bat to your bulbous glass dome is so intense it makes me break out in a cold sweat every time I walk by you. Seriously, it’s gotten so I have to avert my eyes as I pass. It’s not that I want to hurt you; I just want to see your technicolor payload skittering down the incline of the parking lot like some Willy Wonka tidal wave. I’m sure this is the sort of thing that looks better in my head than it would if it actually happened, but that doesn’t lessen the desire any. If I ever run into one of these things full of Super Hi-Bounce balls, I’m completely screwed.

And about 20 minutes into Suspect Zero, I very nearly stood up in the under-populated theater, cupped my hands around my mouth and yelled: “BOOOOOOOORRRRING!” The only reason I didn’t is because I didn’t want to wake anyone. That, and I was so effectively bored-out that I got incredibly sleepy and all the fight was taken out of me. So much so, that I asked my boyfriend if it felt like they were pumping sleeping gas into the theater to him too.

If you took the movie Se7en and threw it in a blender with a heaping helping of Quaaludes and whipped it on high until it was smooth and flavorless, you’d have Suspect Zero. I’m not giving in to my aforementioned childish Id by being unnecessarily harsh, either. Suspect Zero is a film with a great premise that I really wanted to like, but unfortunately it was a great premise completely bled dry by the worst pacing I’ve seen since The Cell. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Suspect Zero lacks all the forward momentum of The Cell.

Freakiest acid trip ever…

You’ve seen the story done a million times; tormented FBI agent (Aaron Eckhart as Thomas Mackelway) on the trail of the taunting, elusive serial killer. This one is even tripped up by his own hot-headedness, just like Brad Pitt in Se7en. He’s coming off a six-month suspension and into a subsequent reassignment in Albuquerque, NM after unleashing a can of whoop-ass on another serial killer, one that walked on account of the transgression. The thing that makes Suspect Zero different (and might have made it interesting were it not for the film’s fatal sluggishness) is the inclusion of a very interesting foil played by Ben Kingsley. Kingsley plays Benjamin O’Ryan, a guy who may or may not be a former FBI agent himself, or may or may not be a fruit loop.

When the body of a salesman turns up with a lidless eye, a cryptic marking and perfectly poised between state lines, well, that’s odd enough. But when Mackelway begins receiving faxes consisting of missing posters and snapshot-accurate charcoal sketches of Mackelway himself standing over the crime scene with the correct time of his investigation and the GPS coordinates of the crime scene scrawled along the top, Mackelway gets understandably creeped-out.

Wait a minute, I could be making the part about the GPS coordinates up, I’m not sure. I might have dreamed that part when I dozed off for five minutes. But don’t worry, it’s not like I missed anything. The movie was snailing along right where I left it when I woke up. Now, where was I?

Oh yeah, so these faxes are coming from Ben O’Ryan in helpful stalker fashion, offering clues and urging Mackelway to “open his eyes”. Upon further investigation, Mackelway discovers that our unfortunate salesman probably got what was coming to him on account of the fact that he’s a serial killer. Soon more faxes begin coming in, each flurry hot on the heels of the death of another serial killer, each body bearing the same marking and missing eyelid. But when hundreds and hundreds of “missing” posters begin swarming in via fax and no body immediately turns up, Mackelway clearly cares more about the outcome than any of us poor belabored viewers do.

So, is O’Ryan so clued-in because he’s the one doing the vigilante-style killing, or is it because of his dealings with a mysterious, experimental FBI splinter group known as “Project Icarus” that gives him such insight into Mackelway’s case? Chances are if you’ve seen the spoiler-leaden trailer for this film, you already know the answer to that as well as any other interesting plot twists that might have been a surprise to you had you not seen the trailer.

On the other hand, maybe seeing the trailer is a good idea, as it boils Suspect Zero down to a far more tolerable sixty seconds from a running time that feels like five hours. No kidding. I checked my watch after leaving the theater expecting to see most of the day gone. Imagine my surprise when I realized the running time wasn’t even two hours. This movie’s lameness disrupted the very fabric of time, and seeing as that is its only standout feature, you might want to pass up Suspect Zero. Even on video.

By: Jen Cameron
Published on: 2004-09-10
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