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"The Watcher," "The Way of the Gun," and "Turn It Up"

Quick Flicks

!B! "The Watcher"!B! "The Way of the Gun"!B! "Turn It Up"!B! "Butterfly"!B! "Saving Grace"

"The Watcher" — Don't bother. A pathetic mishmash of every other — and much, much better — movie in the cop-chases-serial-killer genre, this Keanu Reeves/James Spader vehicle never manages to come up with a single original twist, motive or camera angle. Even the two stars seem to be offering up sloppy seconds. Reeves is about as bland a psycho ever encountered, and Spader seems to have contracted a chronic case of career ennui.

In a nutshell, here's the so-called plot: Reeves stalks and kills women. Spader's an FBI agent who tried to catch him. When Reeves' psycho killed someone close to Spader's agent, he came unhinged. Haunted by MTV-style nightmares and worse, Spader moves to another city. Guess what??! Reeves follows him. Guess what else? The killing starts again. And how about this for a twist? Spader's shrink, Marisa Tomei, catches Reeves' eye. If you prefer a few surprises in your thrillers, be advised — there aren't any here. In fact, the biggest surprise is why this didn't head straight to video.

"The Way of the Gun" — Depending on your current level of cynicism, this bloody bulletfest is either the best thing this side of Tarantino or a dismal miasma of life's career bottom-feeders. Overflowing with hard-boiled narration and even harder-boiled guys with guns, the movie's main selling point is its first-time director: Christopher ("Usual Suspects'" screenwriter) McQuarrie. Regardless of how you feel about the movie, the guy's got chops.

A throwback to those anti-hero movies of the '70s, Ryan Phillippe and Benecio Del Toro are down-and-outers trolling the Southwest for whatever they can get. About to donate sperm for some extra cash, they overhear an intriguing doctor-patient discussion. Next thing you know, they're kidnapping surrogate mom Juliette Lewis and trying to ransom the baby.

What they don't count on is that the millionaire dad is a crook; that the ob-gyn has a big secret; or, that the guy (James Caan) sent in to negotiate is an even tougher old hombre.

The final shootout — which resembles a kind of cockeyed resetting of "The Magnificent Seven" — is a mind-numbing mix of gunfire, childbirth and painful perseverance.

"Turn It Up" — No, better to tune out this cliche-riddled rap melodrama about life on those perpetually mean streets of NYC. Diamond (Pras, giving a one-dimensional, atonal performance) is trying to cut the demo that will take him out of the thug life. But when his trigger-happy manager Gabe (Ja Rule) steals the big bucks they need from a nasty drug dealer, there's hell to pay. Writer-director Robert Adetuyi shows plenty of style — particularly his close-quarters shootouts, but he never quite convinces us that Diamond's talent or desire to escape the life are genuine. Ironically, "Turn It Up" offers barely 10 minutes of actual music.

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