On a weekend that's seeing the openings of "Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2" and "The Brown Bunny," and may likely be referred to several years from now as "The End of Cinema," the release of "Suspect Zero" may turn out to be the cherry on the Apocalypse pie.
From the opening credits that flicker like malfunctioning Christmas lights, director E. Elias Merhige looks to recall the eeriness of David Fincher's "Seven," the literary equivalent of providing a long Hemingway quote at the beginning of your novel, which ultimately only serves to underscore that you are not Hemingway. Merhige isn't Hemingway, or Fincher, or sadly, even Paul ("Alien vs. Predator") Anderson.
The film tries to put the "psych" into "psychological horror." It centers around a disgraced FBI agent, Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart), who's been relegated to New Mexico and pops aspirin like candy. Soon he's hot on the trail of a serial killer of serial killers, who we know to be a weird guy named Benjamin O'Ryan (Ben Kingsley) because Merhige shows us. We just don't know what's going on in O'Ryan's vigilante brain and since Merhige decides to beat us over the head with blurry images and murky charcoal drawings, we don't really care.
When things get freaky, Fran (Carrie-Anne Moss), Thomas's former partner and lover shows up to walk around with him, occasionally blurt out a profanity, show off a frizzy do, and create the expectation, ultimately unrealized, of a really good shower scene. The FBI seems oblivious to the possible problems sending Fran might cause, which means that Merhige is simply using Moss as thinly disguised eye candy in an attempt to spice up a story that has all the pace of a dead elephant race.
Instead of moving the story forward in a way that doesn't render the audience catatonic, Merhige indulges himself with visual interpretations of the machinations of O'Ryan's brain, which reminded me of trying to surf television with the cable feed unplugged. Without giving anything away, let's just say that the plot turns on the believability of ESP. I think more people believe in the Michelin man than believe in ESP these days, so that probably explains some of the audience laughter at what the movie seemed to think were dramatic moments.
Frankly, I wish ESP were real. I could have just written this review without seeing the film.
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