Funny Yellow Discharge For The Soul
E. Elias Merhige
Finally, a movie where Ben Kingsley gets to not act. I’m sick of seeing him turn in nuanced, commanding performances in films like Searching for Bobby Fisher and Schindler’s List, full of emotive power and a commitment to character so profound it could make James Lipton stop interviewing Carrot Top for a moment and get goosebumps. I’m tired of getting drawn into a film by his finely-attuned responsiveness and Method devotion. The repressed rage of Behrani in House of Sand and Fog gives me a headache, and if I have Sexy Beast championed to me one more time as a simultaneously comedic and terrifying portrayal of a sociopath, I’m going to forget all the lessons Ghandi taught me and carve out the tongue of the hipster jackass with a hard-on for British crime thrillers that look like music videos. I’ve been waiting for Kingsley to give up on the craft and take the golden path blazed by De Niro, Pacino, and the greats before them, resting on his laurels so long he dies in his sleep on location for a Billy Crystal sequel. Species showed he was heading in the right direction, and Thunderbirds hinted that his downward trajectory had altered its angle by a decent 20 degrees, but I wasn’t sure he was quite ready to chew scenery with the best of them yet. After all, you haven’t truly lived until you’ve played Satan like a bad Saturday Night Live impersonation opposite a beefcake retard.
Suspect Zero, however, is proof positive that Kingsley’s ready for the big leagues. Hopefully, he’ll reach further back into the annals of fallen idols and take the Welles/Brando route, allowing his talent to decrease in inverse proportion to his girth, until eventually he has trouble remembering to wear pants on set but can eat an entire planet like Galactus. Everything about Suspect Zero would lead you to believe that it would be an enjoyable B-movie, and in a way it is. But it’s in a guilty pleasure way, like admitting you had New Kids on the Block shoelaces when you were 12, or that you find Blanche from The Golden Girls arousing. The premise involves remote viewing, a process familiar to Psi-Factor fans and crazy people with JoJo’s Psychic Alliance on speed dial, in which people are trained in the art of astral projection. Astral projection, for those without access to Unsolved Mysteries DVDs, is all about casting your spirit self to a far off location, to ‘see’ things thousands of miles away. I tried that once, by downing nearly an entire quart of Demerol syrup and watching the Rob Zombie animated sequence from Beavis and Butthead Do America, but I foolishly decided to remote view a child sex tour in Thailand, so my astral self got a bad case of syphilis from a Bangkok whorehouse and died on a third world operating table, leaving me soulless, void, and itchy.
The basic plot has a remote viewing program at the FBI causing Ben Kingsley to go insane and think that yelling a lot of creepy non-sequitors is a substitute for subtlety. Then, he starts serial killing serial killers, which is the kind of thing that would make a producer's head explode in a pitch meeting. The film is actually kind of interesting, Kingsely’s ridiculous mugging aside, primarily because of the interplay between leads Aaron Eckhart and Carrie-Anne Moss, and the fascinating direction of E. Elias Merhige. Merhige, whose last film, Shadow of the Vampire, was similarly forgotten by audiences and critics rather quickly, has a knack for making us feel like we’re watching smaller chunks of a much larger story, which is due either to his mastery of an dream like meta-narrative or mild schizophrenia. Either way, it makes for a hypnotizing viewing experience, one that almost makes me slip into a trance and check out what’s going on at the Dao Kanong brothel.