Surveillance (Jennifer Chambers Lynch, 2008)
Returning to the director’s chair after a fifteen year hiatus, Jennifer Chambers Lynch delivers a taut, albeit predictable, thriller. Surveillance would have felt more at home in the early ‘90s as a fast follow-up to her initial outing, Boxing Helena, as many of the characters feel as if they’ve been taken from her dad’s playbook. Corrupt cops and odd FBI agents populate Surveillance, as if they were refugees from the first act of David Lynch’s Fire Walk With Me. Viewers expecting the quirky charm of an Agent Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak) or grim humor of Sheriff Cable (Gary Bullock) will be sorely disappointed. Odd moments of humor crop up during Surveillance but they feel awkward and sloppily integrated with the film as a whole.
Surveillance opens with a murder followed by an investigation by a pair of FBI agents—Agents Anderson (Julia Ormond) and Hallaway (Bill Pullman). The narrative unfolds in a series of flashbacks as Anderson and Hallaway interview survivors of an attack by a pair of serial killers who recently slaughtered a family and Deputy Conrad (French Stewart). Apart from Captain Billings (Michael Ironside), local law enforcers prove troublesome: they’re a bunch of trigger-happy yahoos who enjoy terrorizing innocent travelers as they cut across the barren Western landscape. Conrad and his partner, Bennet (Kent Harper), love shooting out the tires of passing motorists and then playing upon their fears of authority with a sadistic game of good cop/bad cop.
Pullman and Ormond provide a few entertaining moments. Hopefully Surveillance will serve to get Lynch reacquainted with filmmaking and provide better fare in the future.