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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.65%
Worth A Look: 20.59%
Just Average35.29%
Pretty Crappy: 26.47%
Sucks: 0%

2 reviews, 22 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"Mechanical thrills; Holly Hunter almost saves it."
2 stars

The pre-credits sequence of the aptly named 'Copycat' is a fair warning of how idiotic and shameless the movie is going to be.

Dr. Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver), a cool and somewhat smug psychiatric specialist in serial killers, is lecturing at a San Francisco university. Illustrating the general serial-killer type, she asks every white male in the auditorium between the ages of twenty and thirty to stand up; they do, some smiling sheepishly, some (disturbingly) not. Actually, this is a good start for the movie, but within a minute or so, things go bad and never get better. Helen spots a scuzzy guy in the audience, who leers at her and makes a cut-throat gesture. She looks away; when she looks back, he's gone.

After the lecture, Helen needs to use the ladies' room; a cop makes a sweep of the bathroom, sees a pair of (apparently) female feet inside one of the stalls, and leaves Helen alone. If you were Helen, wouldn't you make the cop stick around? But Helen is brilliant and also very stupid. The female feet belong to Daryll Lee Cullum (Harry Connick Jr.), the sicko in the audience. What follows, as the psycho strings Helen up by her throat and then turns his playful attention to the unfortunate returning cop, is so overbearingly grotesque that it threw me out of the movie, and for the most part, I stayed outside.

After the credits, we cut to thirteen months later: Helen is now an agoraphobic wreck. (Presumably she was rescued, but we never learn how.) Helen has a cheerful gay live-in assistant (John Rothman) and many agoraphobic e-mail buddies, and she's flirting with alcoholism and pill addiction. She's become infantilized by the trauma, afraid of everything, and I wished Sigourney Weaver's performance were in another movie, where she wouldn't come off as a neurotic bitch who has to pull herself together. She played some of the same notes, for example, in Death and the Maiden, and the character of Helen is a lot like Weaver's Ripley in Aliens -- her run-in with the monster gave her expertise but also nightmares. And, like Ripley, Helen must face the monster again.

Young women are being butchered all over the city. The crimes seem unconnected, but the chipper detective on the case, M.J. Monahan (Holly Hunter), suspects the perp is the same guy using different methods in each kill. Her suspicions are confirmed when she and her partner Ruben (Dermot Mulroney) bring the case to Helen, who immediately recognizes the M.O.s of the Boston Strangler and the Hillside Stranglers. The ingenious killer is copying the "greats," constructing a twisted artistic homage to them, to himself, and mostly to Helen, who is presented as a totemic object of adulation among deviants. They all want to appear in her next book -- feared and infamous forever.

In bits and pieces, Copycat seems to be on to something: Our fascination with serial killers can backfire and slash our own throats. And maybe that's how the script (by Ann Biderman and David Madsen) was conceived. The brilliant, baby-faced killer (William McNamara) might almost embody the standard line that psychos are easily swayed by the violent media. Doing his damnedest with an unwritten character, McNamara is genuinely, blandly frightening in some moments (usually at his most innocuous) and utterly unconvincing in others (when he's trying to be diabolical). The killer also dotes on a bedridden older woman who's never identified. Another sicko mama's boy? Whether the fault of the writers or the director-for-hire (Jon Amiel), the killer is maddeningly opaque. The movie is less interested in him than in his elaborate (and highly implausible) ingenuity. It also isn't interested in his victims, whose pain is remote and depersonalized, as in a squalid slasher movie of the '80s. At times, the film itself seems sick.

Every time Holly Hunter appears, she brings some light into the murk. M.J. strides into ghastly crime scenes and smiles sweetly at the cops gathering evidence. She's flirtatiously businesslike. Yet she isn't callous. The script gives M.J. a few flower-child-Buddhist lines to set up her character -- a detective who accepts everyday death as part of the big picture, but isn't hardened to human pain -- and Hunter stays inside this intriguing woman. She's the reason to sit through the idiot plot and cheap tricks of Copycat. Her enjoyment of acting translates as M.J.'s enjoyment of deductive work. The other stand-out is Harry Connick Jr., whose very persuasive performance as a vicious redneck wacko is surprising (if not pleasurable). When taunting Helen via computer link-up late in the movie, Daryll displays a malevolent playfulness that shows up McNamara's generally blank psycho. Connick is riveting without making evil seductive, though part of his effectiveness in the role has to be due to novelty casting: the nice boy who sounds like Sinatra gets nasty.

Copycat has too many characters and needless plot twists -- padding in between corpses. Will Patton turns up as M.J.'s former lover, a cop who's jealous of her developing bond with Ruben. Then (I'm about to give a plot point away, so be warned, even though you can see it coming a mile off) a random disturbance in the precinct station is concocted so that Ruben can be shot and Patton can tearfully confess to M.J. that he secretly wished Ruben dead. The scene is pathetic and pointless; Patton's cop has no reason to be in the movie. Neither does Helen's live-in helper, so appealingly played by John Rothman that he practically has "psycho fodder" tattooed on his forehead.

The scenes of Sigourney Weaver alone and frightened in her vast apartment are, in a word, moronic. Jon Amiel drags out all the old tricks: Helen in the shower, Helen creeping around in the dark, Helen forced to leave her apartment when the monster comes to visit (the hallway tilts agoraphobically; for a minute, we're watching bad imitation De Palma). I looked at Helen's big bones and powerful legs and had to laugh; she could cripple her rather small adversary with a good swift kick. How can Copycat ask us to be worried about Sigourney Weaver? No woman of her great humor and great height is credible being menaced by scummy little psychos.

The 'Alien' directors had the right idea: put this formidable woman up against a huge and horrifying creature out of Lovecraft. But William McNamara?

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2086&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/25/07 23:41:59
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell tense serial killer movie sigourney weaver is great 5 stars
12/02/09 Jeff Wilder Better than your average serial killer movie. 4 stars
8/20/06 Sepi53 Great suspence, Sigourney You are always GREAT!! 5 stars
7/15/06 Daveman Holly Hunter and Sigourney Weaver can't save this uneven, implausible and contrived affair. 2 stars
8/22/05 ES Weaver is excellent as always, movie lacks originaility 3 stars
7/26/05 Indrid Cold Just a drop in the ocean of serial killer movies. Worth a late-night viewing though. 3 stars
4/11/04 HorrorScribbler Okay. Hunter, Mulroney, Connick, Weaver all excellent. Villain ... eh. No Buffalo Bill. 4 stars
11/16/03 KING EDWARD jack,jack-i keep seeing your insepid opinions - i grow weary of you, old chum. 5 stars
3/31/03 Jack Sommersby Beautifully photographed but overlong and only sporadically suspenseful. 2 stars
3/07/03 Jack Sommersby Well-photographed and -acted thriller is just too familiar and plodding to entice. 2 stars
6/18/02 Charles Tatum This will do nothing to change your life 3 stars
5/06/01 Ro Good, creepy thriller that kept me jumping. LOVE Holly Hunter's character! 4 stars
4/29/01 Sez McNamara Peter Foley is the sexiest serial Killer ive ever seen.An excellent film! 5 stars
4/29/01 Sez McNamara Peter Foley is the sexiest serial Killer ive ever seen.An excellent film! 5 stars
8/10/00 Elvisfan Should have made a household name of William McNamara 4 stars
4/21/00 Damn you! This is a fucking good movie!,Cunts!Watch it!Watch it!Watch it!Watch!Watch it then suck my 4 stars
3/13/00 yankee good movie, the murders were gruesome not because of the bodies but the motives 4 stars
11/15/99 Meepos Some good scenes but overall a let down. 3 stars
10/23/99 Lame-Oh not bad, but Scream was better 3 stars
7/03/99 J-Dogg This is surprisingly a really great film. It's highly underrated; RATE IT! 4 stars
6/25/99 A Guy Best Movie Ever 5 stars
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