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Ben Kingsley is a phenomenally powerful and vastly underused actor. Still famous for his seminal role as Ghandi, he has recently played more stereotyped menacing bad guys than roles that show how versatile and multi-faceted an actor he is, but that is not an entirely bad thing. Notably his role in the unusual Ray Winstone crime drama Sexy Beast shows just how much the man can do with a sentence entirely constructed of expletives, and his part opposite the lovely Jennifer Connelly in House of Sand and Fog is also worth mentioning as a brief respite from clichéd roles. Whatever else you can say about a film, if it has Ben Kingsley in it then it is pretty much guaranteed that it has something worth watching in it. Is Suspect Zero an exception to the rule?

Suspect Zero
Film
Opening with a spate of grisly murders perpetuated over the state line—placing them under Federal jurisdiction—we find ourselves on the trail of Ben, a shaven-headed serial killer with a penchant for sick drawings, numbers and the removal of eyelids from his victims. He is believed to be Suspect Zero, a serial killer and FBI Agent wannabe who appears to want to strike his way across the Country and avoid being caught by showing little discernible pattern to his killings – but is there actually a pattern hidden amongst the clues? And is he really a rogue agent? Two FBI agents are put on the case, both newly posted and both ex-partners (in both senses of the word). And neither one of them wants to be there. Tom is one of those ‘used-to-be-a-hotshot-until-he-went-maverick’ Special Agents who has unique insight into the minds of killers but who has also been side-barred for previous misdemeanours, whereas Fran is bitter and resentful over her history but still carrying feelings for her ex—these are characters you have seen before.

In fact, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is just a by the numbers Seven rip-off when in actual fact it has more to offer than that, mainly because they develop the serial killer character into something far more interesting. Sure, we basically have the wonderful Ben Kingsley to thank for bringing it to life, but I think that between that, the ‘killer’s eye’ effects, and the truly unexpected twists that pop up throughout the relatively short running time put the movie firmly in the better than average category, even if it is still far from exceptional. The story is fairly solid, the script what you would expect when you cross a decent episode of CSI: Miami with an early episode of the X-Files, and the filming—whilst occasionally innovative—is nothing to write home about.

Suspect Zero
The cast—aside from Kingsley’s poorly-accented but otherwise good serial killer—basically come down to two FBI agents: Tom and Fran. Tom is played by Aaron Eckhart—the guy from the popcorn disaster movie The Core and the innovative new western, The Missing. I don’t mind the guy, but he is a bit of a poor man’s Thomas Jane (from Deep Blue Sea and the wasted Punisher remake) and Jane isn’t exactly an actor to set standards by. Here Eckhart does just go through the motions but still manages to come across as slightly less irritating than normal. He doesn’t overplay the haunted hero role too much and is quite prepared to take a backseat to Kingsley’s enigmatic mastermind, even if he is certainly the more prominent of the lead good guys. Carrie Anne-Moss play Fran, and she is definitely much more Memento than Matrix in her role—which is both a good and a bad thing. It is certainly nice to see her on the big screen in something a little different, it is just a shame that her character is often sidelined and resolutely stereotyped. None of them are bad, and with Kingsley on board I still maintain that this isn’t a bad movie, but it is a movie that you have to warm to.

Video
Suspect Zero is rather strangely presented in a brand new 1.78:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer that seems to have been purposefully made to look dated. Although extremely clear and detailed, with no sign of softness, the whole movie has been soaked in a light grain that is obviously designed to make the subject suitably gritty. Although I quite like the look of the film it is rather small scope—almost TV-style and from a technical standpoint it is difficult to judge just how intentional the graininess is. Aside from that, the transfer is pretty good, with a nice, broad spectrum that makes the most of the subject matter—from blood reds to solid blacks, and no sign of edge enhancement or digital artefacting. There are also no signs of dirt, dust or other visually abhorrent defects that might affect your viewing pleasure.

Suspect Zero
Audio
The main audio track is a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 effort that delivers the goods. The vocals are at the forefront, always crystal clear and comprehensible, and the score, by Pi’s Clint Mansell, is unusual and penetrating—often haunting—and most definitely perfectly suited to the more tense sequences. Aside from that we also get a few moments of surround music in a bar that shows you just how absorbing the track can be. The effects are quite common as well – and aptly directional – with rumbling trucks, chirping crickets and shrill screams commonplace throughout. This is not an outstanding track, but it is nevertheless a good effort, offering decent bass and good spatial use throughout. There is also a Czech dubbed track and a myriad of subtitling options.

Extras
There are several interesting extras present on the region one disc that we shamefully didn’t get over here. It’s a pity because I thought that region two distributors were getting better at coming up with releases that rivalled their counterparts across the ocean, but this seems like a step in the wrong direction. All we get is a bunch of trailers, ranging from the distinctly lacklustre Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid and The Forgotten, to the solid Milla Jovovich actioner Resident Evil: Apocalypse and the brilliant Clive Owen drama Closer. There is also a trailer for the main feature itself that sets the mood and the atmosphere but gives away more than this review – much more, positively spoiling it in my opinion.

Suspect Zero
Overall
Suspect Zero is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea but is still quite an entertaining little serial killer movie with a twist. Sure, they could have made the ending a little less Hollywood, and given Ms. Moss a slightly meatier role, but Ben Kingsley is always worth your time, even with an American accent. The technical specifications are quite good—the video always suitable for the content and the soundtrack making the most of the material—but the real disappointment is in the extras department where it simply can’t compete with the feature-laden region one counterpart. If you like your serial killer/crime dramas then I doubt you’ll be disappointed but I would recommend a rental first to see what you think.


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