Suspect Zero (2004) — A serial killer of serial killers

“The boy is in pieces under the bed.”

Justin’s rating: And this is why I’m never leaving home again. Ever.

Justin’s review: Suspect Zero is not a perfect movie — and is definitely guilty of plodding along like a dog reluctantly going back into its kennel — but the filmmakers knew how to write a compelling story.

Any good storyteller will tell you that, in order to draw audiences in, you need to have more than one hook. An initial hook exists to quickly snatch the imaginations and attentions of the audience — think the couple opening minutes of any drama on TV, or the opening prologue of a novel — but too many stories are simply content to coast from that one hook until the end of the story. A great story will hide its second (and third, and fourth) hooks deeper within, stunning its audience by giving the plot a good yank to the left (or right, depending on your political leanings).

Suspect Zero has about three main hooks to it, but the only one I’ll mention is the one they pretty much tell you in the film’s description. An FBI agent (Aaron Eckhart) stumbles onto the aftermaths of a mysterious guy (Ben Kingsley) who’s the Batman of the serial killer world: He’s tracking down these horrible people and butchering them himself. A serial killer of serial killers. This has never been done before!

As the story trundles along (taking it’s sweet freakin’ time, I might add), the two men who are dedicated to taking down these degenerates got me looking at the world all hard again. Serial killer movies are more effective at disturbing audiences because while the film might not be based on reality, there are serial killers definitely out there. And monsters in human guises that actually exist are far more terrifying than a monster in a monster suit who kills only in Pretend Land.

While all of the movie’s hooks are big and compelling enough to warrant a viewing, the filling between these events are what holds it back from becoming a must-see. It is not tight, snappy writing populated by characters that leap into our imaginations. It’s a small cast filling dead air with dreamlike explorations that more often lack impact than strike home. Mixed bag of assorted sweets and cockroaches, in other words.

So, it’s okay to see this or skip it. Just leave the sunglasses on your bedside table if you do.

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