Movies — Suspect Zero (R)

Everybody dresses down, orders a few beers and sits down over a pizza to knock out the sleepy little suspense thriller Suspect Zero.

Did you ever watch The X-Files? While I can’t, off the top of my head, think of a specific episode with an identical plot, there’s a basic structure, a general atmosphere, a mixture of the mysterious, the supernatural, the conspiratorial and the crime-solving procedural (not to mention the unresolved sexual tension-laced partnership of male and female FBI agents) that permeates Suspect Zero and brings back that ‘Files feeling. Except The X-Files did it a whole lot better. Even in the last season, when all the actors had stopped caring, all the writers spent their days perfecting their resumes and the plot arc had a bad acid trip and was sitting on the floor rocking back and forth, mumbling incoherently and vomiting occasionally into a trash can. Even then The X-Files did it better. Suspect Zero feels like a movie made out of obligation, possibly to someone’s great uncle or distant cousin who once loaned them money but certainly not obligation to a relative anyone actually liked.

After some initial teasers that basically bring up to speed anyone who hasn’t seen the movie’s trailers, we get rocking and rolling with the arrival at the New Mexico FBI office of a much depressed Agent Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Ekhart). Mackleway’s all down at the mouth about some yet-undefined career troubles at the big-league office in Dallas which has led to his banishment in the southwest boonies. Popping aspirin like Skittles and pining for a Starbucks, Mackleway is soon drawn into a murder with a grab bag of not-your-ordinary-robbery clues. After a few ewws at missing body parts and strange symbols left behind, Mackelway begins an investigation of the dead man. He is soon joined by his former partner/ love interest Agent Fran Kulok (Carrie-Ann Moss). They bicker over who gets to ask the questions and play with the evidence until they uncover another body. Soon they learn that these two dead men took with them secrets of ghastly lives—both were serial killers.

How does Mackelway learn this? With the help of another shadowy, apparently connected man who constantly faxes Mackelway information. Some of it is information about this case, but some of this flurry of mail is also a record of missing persons. These missings have no connection, vanished from all over the country, have no apparent similarities. And yet, this shadowy possible killer that Mackelway comes to know as Benjamin O’Ryan (Ben Kingsley) believes they have all been abducted and ultimately killed by the same man—a man he calls Suspect Zero.

Dum dum duuuuum.

Oh, and also? O’Ryan claims to be a former FBI agent who can see through the eyes of criminals and, though he once used this talent to help aid criminal investigations, he now uses it for vigilante justice. Maybe.

Have another beer, Carrie-Ann. Don’t mind if I do Ben. Hey, Aaron, any of those cheese sticks left? No? Oh well. So, what page were we on?

Lackadaisical. Sluggish. Indifferently.

For all that nothing in Suspect Zero feels original, its biggest drag is the sleepiness that pervades the movie.  Ultimately, there are only so many ways to do the whole serial killer rigmarole. So, it’s hard to fault a movie too much for not being more surprising with a surprise-free concept. But it does seem the actors could at least feign interest (feigning things basically being their jobs and all) and the director could pretend they’re doing something exciting.

Otherwise, we’re left with a community theater workshop version of a third-season episode of Millennium. Though, come to think of it, those were better too.

- Amy Diaz

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