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Suspect Zero

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Ben Kingsley, Aaron Eckhart, ...
Suspect Zero: Melissa Moseley

Suspect Zero

type:
Movie
Current Status:
In Season
mpaa:
R
runtime:
100 minutes
Wide Release Date:
08/27/04
performer:
Aaron Eckhart, Ben Kingsley, Carrie-Anne Moss
director:
E. Elias Merhige
Producer:
Tom Cruise
distributor:
Paramount Pictures
author:
Zak Penn
genre:
Mystery and Thriller, ActionAdventure

We gave it a C

Suspect Zero is about serial killers, FBI agents trained to solve crimes telepathically, and a corona-like play of light behind Ben Kingsley’s bald head that turns the actor’s profile into the universal pictograph for psychological danger. But mostly, director E. Elias Merhige’s art-house-style pulp thriller is about ornate, cinematic mood — images that say: America is a place of lonely truck-stop diners and evil child-killers posing as average men.

I don’t believe the message, least of all as Merhige obsessively paints it, in a rain-drenched genre study in which every character is photographed on a tilt, or in extreme close-up. Naturally, the scrawls produced by Kingsley as Benjamin O’Ryan (Killer? Rogue FBI agent? Crazy person? All three?) are eerily beautiful enough to hang in a SoHo art gallery. They always are in movies like this.

Merhige, who previously put his taste for German expressionism to exquisite use in ”Shadow of the Vampire,” sets his modern-day bloodsuckers in Albuquerque, N.M., where Tom Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart, matching Kingsley scenery chew for chew), a verifiable fed, has been demoted for a plot bonus. Carrie-Anne Moss plays Tom’s excessively gloomy partner. ”What a f—in’ freak,” she observes, delicately, in the script by Zak Penn (”X-2: X-Men United”) and Billy Ray (”Shattered Glass”), when the two uncover a lair strewn with O’Ryan’s scrawls. The truth is, the freakiness kinda turns the director on, and he nearly strangles ”Suspect Zero” with love.