A review of “Suspect Zero” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: R for violence and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

 

 

An impressive cast headlines this disappointing but serviceable thriller.

The song remains the same:  beleaguered FBI agent with a sketchy past and an unorthodox modus operandi (Aaron Eckhart as Tom Mackelway) is assigned to the backwaters of New Mexico to investigate a tricky series of vicious kills.  Before Tom can say Ted Bundy the serial killer is tracking him in a clever game of cat-and-mouse.

To complicate matters, Tom’s ex-partner and, gasp, lover (Carrie Anne-Moss) is assigned to the case as his backup.  All the while resident freak and potential perpetrator Benjamin O’Ryan (Ben Kingsley) is slicing- and-dicing with a vengeance and playing Picasso with volatile mental images that predetermine his victims.

This must have been a great idea at the storyboard stage.  Snappy flashbacks and flashforwards, sepia-toned dreams, and migraines yielding pesky brutish fantasies that won’t go away.  Courtesy of ace cinematographer Michael Chapman the look is lush and loaded with technique. Dinky burgs with names like Truth or Consequences wither on the vine in vivid color oozing with atmosphere.

Technique can’t disguise the fact that Zero is a tired pastiche of the serial killer classics that have come before it. Borrowing liberally from Seven, Silence of the Lambs and Kalifornia, the narrative brings absolutely nothing new to the table and little life to the party.

Kingsley does his best to channel Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, an audacious move that finally falls flat when he attempts to explain himself.  Eckhart is talented, but may need muse Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Nurse Betty) behind the cameras in order to dig into his deepest work.  Scripting sans the ubiquitous “he wants me to see what he sees” would be a step in the right direction.

Will August never end?