Copycat has been compared to Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. I don’t quite agree as both of those are easy suspense-thriller classics in my book, but it still is a solid thriller that features a couple good performances and is well written and finely directed.
The Movie | Special Features | Video Quality | Audio Quality | Overall
Genre(s): Suspense/Thriller, Crime, Drama
Warner Bros. | R – 123 min. – $19.98 | August 2, 2011
Directed by: Jon Amiel
Writer(s): Ann Biderman & David Madsen (written by)
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney, Harry Connick Jr., William McNamara, Will Patton
Theatrical Release Date: October 27, 1995
Features: Commentary, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), German (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): Region Free
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
The suspense crime-thriller Copycat is often compared to Silence of the Lambs and to a certain extent, David Fincher’s Se7en which came out just a month before. Of course, Se7en went on to make $100 million at the box office and place itself in cinematic history as being one of the best crime-thrillers ever made while Copycat cashed a pultry $32 million and is relegated to, “Oh yeah, I remember that movie” status. Back to the comparisons, I can definitely see it but as a whole, it’s not nearly as effective or polished script-wise.
Dr. Helen Hudson (SIGOURNEY WEAVER) is a renowned specialist on serial killers giving lectures around the country and making a good living writing books on the subject. As the movie opens, she’s giving a group of students a history lesson about what types of people are serial killers stating that they are usually white males, between the ages 20-35 and are generally likeable and can gain the trust of his victims. After the lecture, she’s assaulted and nearly killed by serial murderer/psychopath Daryll Lee Cullum (HARRY CONNICK, JR.) but is saved off-screen.
We fast forward 13 months to find Hudson locked away inside a spacious apartment with a fantastic view of the San Francisco Bay. Because of the attack, she has developed agoraphobia and is stuck living in her apartment relying on her assistant to shop for food and supplies. Her only link to the outside world is via a computer where she participates in phobia chat rooms and keeps an eye on a developing serial killer. That case is being handled by Inspector MJ Monahan (HOLLY HUNTER) and her partner Ruben Goetz (DERMOT MULRONEY).
After Hudson makes a call that she knows how the cases are connected, but at the same time doesn’t want to get involved, Monahan and Goetz seek her help which she reluctantly agrees. After comparing crime scene photos of the latest victim, a woman found strangled in a bathtub, Hudson shows that the killer is copying the exact crimes of other serial killers. Then there’s another killing and yet another copying of a different serial killer for which the media has dubbed him the Copycat Killer. Now together they race against time to find the killer before he strikes again… specifically when he sets his sights on Helen.
Copycat is a well made thriller that starts off well enough with director Jon Amiel’s (Entrapment, The Core) dark lighting and perfect ambience, a creepy score by Christopher Young (Murder at 1600, Rounders amongst a ton of others), and the right leads between Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter, although it’s mostly Weaver that gets it done, it’s a film that could compete with the best of them. In fact, I enjoyed the fact that we get to see the killer fairly early on rather than making it a who’s done-it and much more of a cat-and-mouse game not unlike 1993’s In the Line of Fire. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything, especially with a film that’s now 16 years old, that the killer is played by William McNamara who seem to draw inspiration from Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill in his mannerisms yet has enough charm that it’s believable he could get close enough to these people to kill.
** Major Spoiler Warning **
However, I feel the film kind of falters during one major scene. It’s just before the third act when Inspector Goez is finishing up his detail with the Chinatown squadron and unbeknownst to him, one of the suspects manages to get a hold of a gun and takes Goez hostage. On her way over to pick Goez, Monahan walks in on the incident and, recalling an earlier scene at the firing range, she manages to take out the suspect who then grabs his gun and kills Goez. Now, dramatically, the scene is perfectly fine and is a game-changer for Monahan which will come up again during the climax, so I get all that, but for one of the main players with at least an ounce of emotional connection with one character and much more with another, it seems a bit odd for him to go down in a random scene with no connection with the actual case. It’d be something entirely different, albeit perhaps clichéd, if the killer they’d been tracking did the deed and then it would’ve made things even more personal for Monahan.
** End Spoiler **
Aside from that, we get into the final act to the point where we all knew it was heading, though it doesn’t make it less intense especially with one last twist. At the very end, we get one of the bigger cinematic clichés which normally gets me to roll my eyes but here I felt it was effective enough, although it didn’t have quite the intended impact unless the script went in the direction I suggested in the spoiler paragraph, making for a more personal moment.
The film was directed by Jon Amiel who probably best known for helming Entrapment as well as, oddly enough, the comedy/spoof, The Man Who Knew Too Little. It was written by Ann Biderman (Primal Fear, Public Enemies, creator of “Southland”) and David Madsen both making their debuts. Given what she has written since, it’s easy to see the influence Biderman had on the story and except for that one scene, it is a well-written script with realistic dialogue and suspense-filled scenes.
Copycat does succeed as being one of the few movies where you have two strong female protagonists and for that it does stand on its own; otherwise I still don’t think it compares all that well with Silence or Se7en. That said, it’s still a solid crime-thriller worthy of checking out if you haven’t already thanks in part to skilled direction and a once again good performance from Weaver and McNamara.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.25/5
The Blu-ray ports over the Audio Commentary with director Jon Amiel and the theatrical trailer (1:56; SD). The only thing missing is a useless “behind the scenes” production notes.
VIDEO – 4.0/5
Copycat creeps its way onto Blu-ray with a nice looking, fairly cleaned up, high-def transfer. The film is presented with a 2.40 aspect ratio and when comparing it to the DVD copy I have, it’s at times a day and night different between the two. As one would expect, the video is cleaned up with only a few instances of minor dust marks and still has the natural film noise to go along with great detail throughout. Black levels are also quite nice where there wasn’t much in the way of pixilation or other flaws which can come to light during those shots/scenes. I can’t say this is going to be a “wow” video transfer, but it’s still quite good.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
While not quite as good of an upgrade by comparison, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is still a fine track. The dialogue, as usual, is almost all through the center channel and even some audio effects as well. There is ambient noise that makes use of the front and, in a few cases, rear channels. When compared with the DVD’s DD5.1 track, this one is a bit more dynamic.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Copycat has been compared to Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. I don’t quite agree as both of those are easy suspense-thriller classics in my book, but it still is a solid thriller that features a couple good performances and is well written and finely directed. The Blu-ray has good video and audio transfers and the features have been ported over from the DVD release.