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With: Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney, William McNamara, Harry Connick Jr., J.E. Freeman, Will Patton, John Rothman, Shannon O'Hurley, Bob Greene, Tony Haney, Danny Kovacs, Tahmus Rounds, Scott DeVenney, David Michael Silverman
Written by: Ann Biderman, David Madsen
Directed by: Jon Amiel
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Running Time: 123
Date: 03/19/2013

Copycat (1995)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Cold Serial

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jon Amiel's almost forgotten mid-1990s San Francisco serial killer thriller Copycat (1995) makes its Blu-Ray debut this month. It's not the kind of title that anyone would seek out, but it's a fine movie if you're just going to be watching a little TV.

Copycat has some interesting visual flourishes, an appealingly quirky performance by Holly Hunter, and another by Harry Connick Jr. as an imprisoned killer. It's too long, and it doesn't have very many surprises -- it's very heavily inspired by the then-recent success of The Silence of the Lambs -- but it uses San Francisco locations nicely, and it tries hard to give some inner life to its supporting characters as well as its leads.

Hunter -- who had just won her Oscar for The Piano -- plays police detective M.J. Monahan, who realizes that a couple of new killings may be connected. Sigourney Weaver is top-billed as serial killer expert Helen Hudson, who hides inside her high-tech apartment ever since a killer tried and failed to snuff her after a lecture.

M.J. goes to Helen for help, and though Helen is reluctant and petulant, she does what she can without exiting her cocoon. They soon realize that the killer is copying the famous crimes of history's most well-known killers, but they must figure out who is next, and why. Don't be surprised if it all comes down to a chase that requires Helen to visit the real world for the first time in over a year.

Dermot Mulroney plays M.J.'s happy-go-lucky partner, who almost becomes a sex toy for Helen. Will Patton plays another cop with a helpless crush on M.J., and J.E. Freeman is the cranky, older lieutenant that once worked the San Francisco Zodiac case. Hunter is nicely at ease here, showing some of her snappy power, but also with a reserved, chilly side, clearly established for protection. She's cute, and not particularly warm, but she makes it work.

Amiel takes the action all over the City, but usually to the most picturesque places. Helen's apartment (likely a set in Los Angeles) is amazing, an intricate mazelike womb with giant, automated window flaps. For someone so paranoid, you'd think she would want a place without so many hiding places.

Amiel is best known for his groundbreaking TV miniseries "The Singing Detective" (1986), though his subsequent Hollywood directing career has been without much interest or personality (Tune in Tomorrow, Sommersby, The Man Who Knew Too Little, Entrapment, The Core, Creation, etc.). Copycat is not exactly filled with tension or excitement, but it's probably one of his high points.

Warner Home Video released the Blu-ray, and it passes muster. It comes with a commentary track by Amiel, and a trailer.

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