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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Retro Review: Copycat (1995)

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Harry Connick Jr, Dermot Mulroney, Will Patton
Genre: Psychological Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $32 million

Plot: An agoraphobic psychologist and a female detective must work together to take down a serial killer who copies serial killers from the past

'Female Version Of Se7ven & Just As Gripping'

A mid-1990s psychological thriller, Copycat received favourable reviews & despite its somewhat low-key turn out at the box office, this so-called female version of Se7ven stands out amongst the overlooked of all the psychological thrillers that were released during that decade and is also one that deserves to stand up amongst The Silence of the Lambs and Se7ven. 

Dr Helen Hudson became a potential and likely murder victim for the serial killer, the mentally disturbed Darryll Lee Cullam. Fortunately, Helen survived her ordeal and he was captured and sent to prison. Yet it isn't long for a new serial killer to make his mark and kill his female victims.

Sigourney Weaver is at her most vulnerable as Dr Helen Hudson, and former criminal psychologist and expert witness, as well as agoraphobic, who is still haunted and traumatised by the past memories of a serial killer, Darryll. It is so severe that she is unable to leave her apartment for 13 months, after being attacked that she endures panic attacks, every so often. On the other hand, being an ex-psychologist, she is very knowledgeable in her field and demonstrates her know-how in understanding the methods and tricks of the trade serial killers employ. It is then discovered that this new killer is someone who chooses to honour his serial killers by mimicking them and their methods, making it tougher for detectives who rely on similar patterns of thought and mystery solving and when Helen is once again targeted, a cat and mouse chase occurs between himself and Helen & MJ/Monahan. 

The film unfolds at a nice pace for viewers to follow & along with the score, these build up the tension, bit by bit with each scene, leading up to the final showdown. The last 30 mins or so when the movie started to come alive with the killings and the suspense ratcheting up several notches, kept me glued.

Copycat distinguishes itself from many other serial killers - based psychological thriller films in 3 ways: first of all, it is one of the few movies with two main female protagonist actresses as lead roles, Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter; second of all, right off the bat, we are shown the face of the killer and that there will eventually be a showdown between Helen and the Killer. Yet 50 mins into the film, it is revealed that Daryll is not the only serial killer, who is murdering these women. 

Dermot Mulroney gives a slightly better turn here than in My Best Friend's Wedding as fellow partner Ruben, along with Holly Hunter, in arguably her first major role since The Piano as persistent & self-confident San Francisco cop, MJ who can be easy-going, but who is not willing to let Helen off the hook. Holly's character could have been another generic cop; instead, she displays an array of emotions, mild-mannered one minute, the next, she shows her angry side. It wasn't until I was watching Holly in this film that I noticed how tiny she was. And yet, she still kicks ass, which is cool to see. Her scenes with Weaver, as few as they were, made it watchable and it was interesting to see two characters who have very different ways of approaching crimes, work together. I also liked that even as the good guys, their multi-layered characters remained as subtle, as well as strong in places. And likewise, Harry Connick Jr's surprising turn, which was a world away from his singing exploits and lighter acting roles, was effective and decent. William Mcnamara as the other bad guy somehow reminds me of James Marsden, looks-wise and yet he was so believable at being evil. 

The film sticks the knife in and twists it, not once but twice towards the end and the storyline is clever and intuitive also, despite the makeshift plot. 

And whilst some people will gripe about the killer's identity being unravelled throughout the film, as well as the needless romantic subplot involving Will Patton, Mulroney and Hunter's characters, for me anyway, this did not take away from the tension and suspense and thrills, but rather this builds them up and elevates them further. More crucially, Copycat works so well through Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter, whose performances make all the difference. Had it not been for their inclusions, then honestly, this film just wouldn't be as watchable. 

Final Verdict:

Gripping, highly engrossing from the middle of the movie onwards & a tough thriller, backed up with impressive performances by the main two of Holly Hunter and Sigourney Weaver to boot. After a slow start, Copycat becomes one of those thrillers where as long as you stick with it, the film gets better later on, with the added twists and tension that gives the serial killer crime flick that extra bite it needs, and deserves.  

That, and whilst it isn't as amazing, it's still enjoyable and that Copycat tries to do things slightly differently, rather than tread on familiar territory and be so cliched that, in turn, other serial killer-based thrillers become clones of themselves. 

For that alone, I give this film extra credit.


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