The Watcher

September 8, 2000 0 By Fans
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Keanu Reeves stars as GriffinJames Spader stars as CampbellMarisa Tomei stars as Polly


David Allen Griffin is a cool killer- time and time again, he chooses a female victim, studies her for weeks till he knows her routine to the smallest detail…

Release Year: 2000

Rating: 5.2/10 (15,118 voted)

Critic's Score: 22/100

Joe Charbanic

Stars: James Spader, Keanu Reeves, Marisa Tomei

David Allen Griffin is a cool killer- time and time again, he chooses a female victim, studies her for weeks till he knows her routine to the smallest detail, makes meticulous preparations using his forensic knowledge to gain entry when she's quite alone, subdues her and administers a long, torturous death. Joel Campbell got so frustrated by his failure to capture Griffin in LA that he quit the FBI, moved to Chicago and remains in psychiatric therapy, unable to function normally. Then he realizes, when opening his mail very late, that a new murder victim is Griffin's, and the killer send him pictures of her. Campbell reports this to the police, but is unwilling to join them in the search, suggesting Griffin is too slick and clever; yet he won't get out of it that easily…

Writers: Darcy Meyers, David Elliot


James Spader


Marisa Tomei


Keanu Reeves


Ernie Hudson


Chris Ellis


Robert Cicchini


Yvonne Niami


Jenny McShane


(as Jennifer McShane)

Gina Alexander


Rebekah Louise Smith


(as Rebakah Louise Smith)

Joseph Sikora


(as Joe Sikora)

Jill Peterson


(as Jillian Peterson)

Michele DiMaso


(as Michelle Dimaso)

Andrew Rothenberg

Jack Fray

David Pasquesi


Someone wants to play.


Official Website:
The Official Site |

Release Date: 8 September 2000

Filming Locations: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $33,000,000


Opening Weekend: $9,062,295
(10 September 2000)
(2742 Screens)

Gross: $28,927,720
(29 October 2000)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


Universal reportedly paid $5 million to acquire the North American distribution rights of this movie.


When Joel is rummaging through a drawer at Jane Doe 2's house, it is a modern, long drawer. When the camera pulls back, he is in front of a traditional chest with 2 small drawers in the top. As he bends to the left, you can see the original drawer.


David Allen Griffin:
Why did you turn away from me? Why was it so hard for you to accept? Cos you know I did it for you. You came so close to me that night. I remember clearly what I felt when I heard your footsteps falling behind me. Pride. I thought it would keep us together forever. For me it was our finest moment. I can still see the flames.

User Review

Fascinating psychological portrait

Rating: 10/10

Joel Campbell (James Spader) is an FBI agent on leave. He literally
"left" his home base in Los Angeles, defeated, because of a
particularly hairy case involving an unusually devious, crafty and
risk-loving serial killer who went by the name of David Allen Griffin
(Keanu Reeves). The Watcher begins with Campbell resettled in Chicago,
trying to put his life back in order. But what will happen when Griffin
shows up in the Windy City? This is an unusual film in many ways.
Although on one level it's a fairly standard thriller with Reeves
playing a subtly twisted baddie, it's really a complex psychological
portrait that focuses more on Spader as Campbell.

Campbell's life is a mess in Chicago. He can't work and he can barely
take care of himself. He looks and feels miserable. His apartment
reflects his life–though sparse in content, it's extremely unkempt and
unhealthy looking. He is having continual nightmares. He has to inject
himself in the stomach with prescription drugs to get over panic
attacks and to enable at least a couple hours sleep at night. Of course
Campbell is making regular visits to a psychiatrist, Dr. Polly Beilman
(Marisa Tomei).

He became such a wreck because of being wrapped up so long with the
Griffin case. Griffin regularly toyed with Campbell, communicating with
him and even giving him clues so that Campbell would be able to almost
but not quite beat Griffin to the punch. Amusingly, director Joe
Charbanic portrays Griffin as more well adjusted and much more focused
than Campbell.

As Dr. Beilman discerns, Griffin was Campbell's raison d'etre for so
long–almost his sole concern–that abandoning the case resulted in
Campbell effectively abandoning his life. Thus Charbanic gives us a
clever, ethically gray twist. Griffin may be beneficial to Campbell; he
may be the only one who can get him back on track. Likewise, Griffin is
shown to be a bit lost without Campbell. It creates a fascinating
psychological dependency in a twisted relationship that mirrors the two
other male-female relationships that propel the plot, providing a
subtext about co-dependency and slightly off-kilter, questionably
healthy relationships in general.

Although Reeves is often criticized for his acting ability, The Watcher
is an excellent example of what that is unjustified. It's not that
Reeves doesn't have range. It's that he's extremely subtle. He's not an
actor to chew scenery. His Griffin is really just as psychotic as, say,
De Niro's Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976) or Jack Nicholson's Jack
Torrance in The Shining (1980), but Reeves isn't usually one to
maniacally chop down a door with an axe and crazily intone "Heeeere's
Johnny", you have to watch him closer than that to see the character.
Even when he's in full action mode, either as a killer, as he is here,
or as a superhero, as in The Matrix (1999), Reeves is all about a kind
of quiet control. It's not a better or worse style than De Niro or
Nicholson, just different. Spader also gives a finely tuned
performance. As the character requirements have it, he's a fine
complement for Reeves, somewhat paralleling Reeves' style, somewhat
providing a counterpoint.

The film has interesting things to say about anonymity in modern
societies, especially big cities. Griffin is able to play the games he
does only because so many people are faceless and ignored.

Charbanic films The Watcher with a unique visual style can be
"arty"–especially during the flashbacks–and conventionally build
suspense at the same time. He's also aided by a great score (including
a couple brief snippets of Reeves "dancing" to Rob Zombie) and
attractive production design.

The Watcher isn't the typical "10 out of 10" film, as its surface gloss
is more pedestrian than the usual film of that caliber. But if you dig
just a little deeper, you'll find gold.