Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Suspect Zero (2004)

The premise of this film sounded interesting, and it had a solid cast too. But for some reason I never heard of it. I also enjoyed the director’s previous film Shadow of the Vampire, a fun and demented take on the making of Nosferatu. So I figured a serial killer film featuring Ben Kingsley was going to be good. But was I just falling into the cleverly laid trap by a criminal mastermind?

Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart) is an FBI profiler who has been having a rough time on the job. His last case ended up falling apart because he let his emotions carry him away and vital evidence could not be used to convict the killer. Since then Mackelway has been suffering from headaches and strange hallucinations. Then he receives a letter from a man who claims to know what is going on in his latest case.

Mackelway begins to suspect that this man, O’Ryan (Ben Kingsley) may be a serial killer. Mackelway’s partner Fran (Carrie-Anne Moss) sees that Mackelway is starting to slip into an obsession with catching O’Ryan, but there are other troubling signs. The murder victims seem to be less then innocent. On top of this Macklway’s visions may be connecting him in a strange psychic way to O’Ryan. At the center of the mystery is the deadly killer known only as Suspect Zero.

Good Points:
  • An intriguing concept lies at the center of the film.
  • A very effective mood and some atmospheric scenes
  • A couple of moments with Kingsley really creep under your skin
Bad Points:
  • Feels like it was longer and was edited with a chainsaw
  • Some of the acting feels too broad
  • While it comes together in the end, the final moments don’t deliver a punch
Ugh, what a frustrating film this was. I can see a really good movie buried inside, but the final result is so fragmented, so off kilter and so choppy that it is hard to recommend. Some of the visuals are really unsettling and creepy. Sometimes the performances are really handled well, especially when Kingsley is keeping things low key and intense. But other times characters seem to be ranting and raving with no build up. And that is my biggest problem, it feels like all the tension building scenes were chopped out, leaving us with the procedural moments and the finales, but none of the middle material. If you are into serial killer movies, this makes an OK rental. But it feels like it wanted to be like the disturbingly unique Cure, but missed the boat.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 3
Script: 3
Music: 3
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 2
Total:  3

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. Google "Movies that should have been good" and pages of articles will turn up with lists of 10, 50, 100 or more titles. It seems this is one more for a list. Usually when a could've-been movie fails it is the writer's fault: the script is missing something. A good script usually can carry so-acting and cheesy production values, but it is possible to cut a movie to death or to miscast it to death too.

    1. Yeah, I'd like to know if this movie really was longer and someone thought the film ran too long. The director's previous film was a bit of a slow burn, and I can imagine the studio didn't like the pacing of this film. But then again, it could have just been one of those movies that never came together.

  2. Glad you reviewed it so I won't rent it because generally speaking Kingsley stars in pretty decent films, plus the story sounds halfway interesting. Maybe I'll give The Cure a chance instead. The last serial killer film I saw that I liked although I feel squeamish about saying I like something of that nature was I Saw the Devil. Sort of a combination of serial killer and a revenge film. But it entertained me nonetheless.

    It seems TV crime series like CSI these days are rife with serial killers. They try and out serial killer the show of the previous week, with now there's two or three serial killers or a copy cat serial killer or a family of serial killers. I guess it's our modern day monster.

    1. It's funny you say that about detective shows, because my wife and I were just discussing that same thing. Serial killers are around every corner. I guess a single murder isn't enough to get us terrified these days. Now that is scary!