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By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 27, 1995


Jon Amiel
Holly Hunter;
Sigourney Weaver;
Dermot Mulroney;
William McNamara;
Harry Connick Jr.
violence, nudity and language

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The world needs another serial-killer thriller like Dolly Parton needs breast implants. And that's bad news for "Copycat," a perversely entertaining variation on the overworked genre. This one pits Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter against a fiendish mastermind obsessed with paying homage to such predecessors as Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz and Jeffrey Dahmer. The leading ladies' objective: Neuter the creep.

Here as in the gruesome "Seven," the killer fancies himself an artist and considers each murder a different piece of a masterwork in progress. In both films, too, the killer plays on the detectives' own shortcomings to draw them ever deeper into his macabre game. But because "Copycat" depicts the victimization of women through the eyes of its female protagonists, the film really has more in common with "The Silence of the Lambs."

Weaver plays the pivotal role of Helen Hudson, a cool criminal psychologist and best-selling author who specializes in serial killers. In a crisp lecture on the subject, Hudson points out that fewer than a dozen serial murderers are stalking America's streets at any given time and that most are white males between 20 and 35. (White guys represent the last group that Hollywood can vilify without provoking a public outcry, hence their on-screen abundance as villains.)

One of them—Harry Connick Jr. doing Ernest P. Worrell as psycho—almost murders her in a hair-raising scene only moments after the lecture. Ernest goes to jail, and Helen suffers a nervous breakdown that leaves her so phobic she can't so much as step outside her loft to retrieve the newspaper. Though she can no longer bring herself to work, she can't stop herself from phoning the police with some thoughts on an outbreak of bizarre killings.

The cops no longer put any credence in the housebound Hudson's opinions, but detective M.J. Monahan (Hunter) is stumped by the case, and turns to Hudson for help. As the murders mount and the methods metamorphose, Hudson figures out his MO, but not which sicko he'll be emulating next.

Jon Amiel, who previously directed "Sommersby," delivers a taut, gripping thriller and, with the help of his accomplished leads, succeeds in camouflaging some of the mammoth holes in Ann Biderman and David Madsen's otherwise intelligent and inventive screenplay.

Now, what do you say we give psycho killers a rest?

Copycat is rated R for violence, nudity and language.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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