johnlink ranks SUSPECT ZERO (2004)

This decade old thriller about a serial killer who kills serial killers is a movie I’d circled and considered watching a few times. I finally did, though not for any particular reason. Just in the mode from something of that vibe. I really had no idea if this was any good when I started it…


I watched SUSPECT ZERO (2004) on 12.14.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart) is an agent who has newly found his way to the FBI minor leagues in New Mexico after something shady happened in the Dallas office. Within a few hours of arriving, he starts getting faxes from a serial killer (Ben Kingsley). When the bodies start dropping the FBI, for some reason, sends another agent from Dallas, one Mackelway has a personal beef with, in Agent Fran Kulok (Carrie-Anne Moss). They engage in a bunch of suspect police work (like Mackelway forgetting to call the phone number on the fax he first receives) as they stumble towards answers. The thrust is that the serial killer is killing other serial killers because that is what he was trained to do. The agents are sort of looking for him, and sort of looking for some other people.

A good script puts some real obstacles in the way of a character’s success. SUSPECT ZERO feels like it comes from a place which doesn’t understand police work. Basic things are made to be revelations, and obvious conclusions are ignored by top brass so that Mackelway has to go against what he is supposed to do (again) in order to get the bad guy.

SUSPECT ZERO, though, is a movie which wants desperately to be interesting. There is a fantasy aspect to the film which the movie treats as fact, and that works for it. Kingsley’s killer has a method which should flop, but somehow stands up in this movie. Further, Director E. Elias Merhige fills this movie with uncomfortably claustrophobic angels and off-putting shots. Some of these are your typical disjointed concepts like a canted frame. Others serve to flip the 180 degree line which all filmmakers decided early on not to flip so as to not disorient the viewer. Some feel artful, others like a piece of art being filmed by someone without an eye for art. It’s gritty, at least, and it isn’t always pretty. Sometimes that feels like the point, but sometimes that point is way oversold.

The acting is inconsistent. Moss is given very little to do and ultimately succumbs to being in love with her partner, even if that is left as a somewhat subtle statement. Eckhart tries. He gives this what he can, but the material isn’t always workable. Kingsley plows through like a truck. If the dialogue is silly he just gets louder and chews the scenery more. Sometimes this works, like in a scene in front of a mirror, and sometimes it feels like the character he is playing is several different versions of the same guy.

I can’t say this is a movie to recommend. It is a bit of an oddity. I like to give credit to movies which are made to look and feel different than the standard Hollywood thriller. This isn’t glossy filmmaking, but it isn’t particularly interesting filmmaking either. IMDb has this as a 5.9. That feels about right.




FINAL SCORE: 5.25 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on December 15, 2014.

4 Responses to “johnlink ranks SUSPECT ZERO (2004)”

  1. Turned it off halfway through. Felt too much like Seven, and also, Eckhart’s wart was bothering me. Good review John.

  2. This movie is weird. It seems like it’s good but then it really isn’t. Or is it?

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