FBI agent Joel Campbell (James Spader), burnt-out and shell-shocked after years spent chasing serial killers, flees L.A. to begin a new life for himself in Chicago. But five months later, Joel’s best laid plans are abruptly cut short when his new hometown becomes the setting for some particularly gruesome murders – murders that could only have been committed by one man: David Allen Griffin (Keanu Reeves), an elusive and cunning nemeses from Campbell’s past.
An effective cat and mouse thriller that fascinates the viewer, but the sadistic pleasure the madman gets out of tormenting the law and his victims becomes unnerving. Also troubling, is the impish characterization Reeves gives his nutcase. He’s witty, buffed and skilled. He’s more steamy than creepy. And although this is a mute point, I’d like to know how he makes a living. He doesn’t seem to do anything other than stalk and strangle. Once again, we find a Hollywood production unable to tell a story without abusive language. (20 uses of that one particular obscenity, alone). Both the good guys and the bad guys have the same limited vocabulary. Rather than make the villain charming, I think the audience would be better served by depicting their serial killers as the demonics they are in reality. (Ever see a picture of John Wayne Gacey?) Check out Ross Martin’s eerie performance as a kidnapper in “Experiment In Terror.” Or Boris Karloff’s terrifying murderer in “Tower of London.” No, these are not films for the youngsters in the family, but I mention them because they don’t try to glorify demonic behavior. They are the bad guys and we don’t sit there hoping they will elude capture.