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"Alrighty, I see the hole. Now where's this 'glory' part you keep talking about?"


Suspect Zero
(R, 100 min.)
Wide release

Thursday, September 02, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

Suspect Zero

Killer instinct: Suspect Zero is creepy, brooding popcorn flick

By Anthony Del Valle

It's a bit creepy the way Ben Kingsley excels in two opposite kinds of roles: the highly morally noble (Gandhi, House of Sand and Fog) and the highly deranged (Sexy Beast). The 60-year-old Brit's ease in portraying these opposites suggests the passions involved on both sides of the border may be uncomfortably similar.

This time out, in director E. Elias Merhige and screenplay writers Zak Penn and Billy Ray's Suspect Zero, Kingsley is--well, I can't tell you what he really is, or I'd give it away. Let's just say he goes by the name Benjamin O'Ryan and he's being hunted for a series of murders by straight-laced Albuquerque FBI agent Tom Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart). The corpses keep turning up with their eyelids cut off. The agent thinks he's tailgating the killer, but it's the killer who's tailgating the agent. Mackelway keeps getting faxed by him, with updates of who's missing, gruesome photos of child victims, hints of clues and proof that the killer knows the agent's every move. Winds up this agent has a troubling past that intercepts with the killer's. But there are many twists along the way, including a major one that will have you uncertain of what's really going on until just before the film's final moments.

The movie is too brooding for its own good, at times illogical, and tends to be overstylized. Worse, the writers don't take advantage of Kingsley's ability to get under the skin of his character. A scene where O'Ryan inexplicably weeps during a black worship service makes us want to get to know this psychotic much more than the film will allow.

But there's plenty of understated suspense, a fine, dry performance from Eckhart and intriguing cinematography by Michael Chapman. It's a poor man's Silence of the Lambs crossed with Insomnia. And that makes it at least a decent popcorn movie.


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