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Friday, August 27, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Moira Macdonald
Throughout the serial-killer thriller "Suspect Zero," FBI Agent Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart) is plagued by headaches. So was I, for different reasons. Mackelway, a morose fellow who, like all movie FBI agents, is Wrestling With His Own Demons (capitalization because that's how Eckhart plays it), is obsessed with tracking down an especially sicko serial killer by using his special training, through which he telepathically enters the mind of the killer.
After about a half-hour of this, I became obsessed with the fresh air, daylight and pleasant possibilities on the other side of the theater door. Hence the headaches, for both of us. You have been warned.
Directed by E. Elias Merhige and written by Zak Penn and Billy Ray, "Suspect Zero" is a violent, depressing and often ridiculous waste of time, filled with gory crime scenes, overcaffeinated camera tricks (what's up with the pink flash?), rooms and coffee shops so dark you wonder why the cast wasn't issued miner's headlamps, and, inexplicably, a great deal of faxing. All this, accompanied by a mysterious sound design that seems to feature random moaning (which could, of course, have been coming from the audience, or maybe even from me), is in service to a tiresome plot that's, try as you might, impossible to care about.
Some good performers get caught in the muck here. Sir Ben Kingsley, as the strangely bug-eyed creep who may or may not be the killer, channels a bit of his terrifying "Sexy Beast" persona, but he's so overdirected, with rolling eyes and a voice that wanders up and down, the cumulative effect becomes almost comical. Carrie-Anne Moss, the FBI agent who Understands Mackelway's Dark Secret (yes, more capitalization; we aren't dealing in subtlety here), wanders around in the dark, looking angular. And poor Eckhart, usually displaying the blankness of a man who's just been punched out, reaches an emotional high during a scene in which he rips off wallpaper, like a home-decor TV-show contestant gone berserk.
It's late August, the traditional dumping ground for lame big-studio movies. This movie, like the summer, will quickly pass. Wish I could say the same for the headache.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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