You know there's something wrong with a film when French Stewart is the best thing in it. In all sincerity, Stewart's performance as an off-the-rails cop in Jennifer "David's daughter" Lynch's Surveillance, her first film since her 1993 artsy softcore clusterfuck of a debut Boxing Helena, is easily the best thing in the whole misbegotten project. Surveillance is something like a cross between Rashomon and Kalifornia, a hideously distended police procedural told from the point-of-view of three witnesses to a roadside massacre somewhere in Heartland, America. Stewart's role as an abusive cop provides a much-needed respite from Lynch's otherwise miserable psychodrama.
Surveillance is the kind of bad movie where even the filmmaker doesn't seem interested in the premise of the project. At least, I prefer to think Lynch was too bored to care about the details of what could have just been a very weird episode of CSI. That, at least, would be preferable to the nagging possibility that Lynch is pretentiously trying to blur the boundaries between different characters' stories.
Once two FBI agents (Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond) begin interrogating the three suspects, it becomes apparent that there's no real way to ascribe who's thinking or even visualizing what. The narrative is thus told as one big lump of a flashback, haphazardly showing us things that only characters who don't survive the much-built-up bloody main event could know.
The one brief moment of genuine enjoyment in the film, between its interminable build-up and glaringly obvious twist ending, is Stewart's performance. Unlike actor/co-writer Kent Harper, who plays Stewart's equally sadistic partner, Stewart shows that he can play crazy the best out of all his co-stars, which is saying a lot considering how hard both Harper and Ormond try. Maybe it's high time for him to make a Rourke-ian comeback, or maybe Lynch's film just put me into a highly suggestible state and I'm clutching too tightly onto the film's one saving grace.