Copycat [1995]

Taking its lead from Jonathan Demme's Oscar-winning pulse-raiser The Silence of the Lambs, Copycat strives for intelligence over gristle and carnage. It's a terse, involving thriller that swings away from the usual cinematic notion of violence as a means to an end by forgoing brawn for brains. Young San Francisco police inspector Ruben Goetz (Dermot Mulroney) is teamed with brilliant force vet, M.J. Monahan (Holly Hunter), a diplomatic, no-nonsense cop who must buck the system in order to find a killer who is copycatting the crimes of history's most notorious serial killers. Ruben would rather shoot to kill than merely wound a suspect; Monahan labors to help him think more diplomatically. Everything changes when crank calls arrive at the station from serial-killer pin-up girl psychiatrist Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver). She's been housebound for 13 months, ever since murderer Daryll Lee Cullum (Harry Connick Jr.) nearly made her his next victim because she testified against him in court. Though he's in prison, he's still mentor and muse to every loose cannon walking the streets--one of whom is killing people with a vengeance and hoping to finish the job Cullum began. Cop and doc team up to solve the case in this stylish, plot-driven movie. Though Copycat loses steam in the end, it still makes a point. And it serves as a cautionary tale for people everywhere, tossing in street smart warnings against victimization. The teaming of Hunter and Weaver works well, the short and the tall forging a terrific and frictioned relationship that leads to grudging respect. Establishing an ominous atmosphere reminiscent of his classic British TV miniseries The Singing Detective, director Jon Amiel has an eye for the dark and the unusual and it gives this film an edge that eludes most other mainstream filmmakers. --Paula Nechak

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