Copycat (1995) – A Review

Holly Hunter Sigourney Weaver Copycat 1995 crime thriller
Holly Hunter and Sigourney Weaver in Copycat

Famed criminal profiler and psychologist Dr. Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver) has some firsthand experience with the depraved minds of killers.

Thirteen months ago she had been the potential victim by the mentally disturbed Daryll Lee Cullum (Harry Connick Jr.). Fortunately Helen escaped with her life and Cullum was put behind bars, but she is still haunted by her encounter with him.

Pill popping and drinking is now how she spends her days. Suffering from extreme agoraphobia she doesn’t dare leave her apartment. Even opening the door to the get the morning paper can cause her to have a panic attack.

As a new serial killer emerges in San Francisco Helen is asked for her help by the lead detective on the case M.J. Monahan (Holly Hunter). Begrudgingly she agrees. As the murders escalate, they discover the murders are modeled after the kills of past serial killers and Helen becomes a target by this ‘copycat’. The sanctity of her apartment is no longer safe and she must now try to overcome her fears to help M.J. stop this killer before Helen becomes his next victim.

I always thought Copycat was an a entertaining underrated little thriller of a movie. After Hannibal Lecter hit the scene an avalanche of cops chasing serial killers hit the theaters. Copycat stands out from a lot of them thanks to the performances of two strong female leads.

Sigourney Weaver Copycat 1995 crime thriller
Weaver comparing copycat crime scenes

Weaver and Hunter seem like an unlikely screen duo. I remember at the time when this came out a lot was made of their differences in height. It’s not a big deal. Director Jon Amiel films his stars so that the one foot difference is hardly noticeable.

So here we have two strong smart women who are the central characters in a film. And Weaver and Hunter are both very good in their respective roles and alone make Copycat worth watching.

Weaver is the one who gets the more juicy stuff to do as she’s living in this shell-shocked state and can easily go into a panic attack at any moment. She’s cut herself off from the outside and doesn’t seem to be making any progress of living a normal existence again.

Hunter basically plays straight woman to Weaver’s more showy part. She’s not exactly the clichéd tough cop who doesn’t follow the rules and constantly gets berated by her captain that we often see in the movies. She has casual interactions with her co-workers, notably with her partner Dermot Mulroney and boss J.E. Freeman. It’s like any office environment where she can crack a bad joke and smile, but when work has to be done she switches to serious mode.

Holly Hunter Copycat 1995 crime thriller
Hunter on duty

The storyline unfolds at a nice pace with the tension ratcheting up for our two main characters. The escalating murders aren’t the only things they’re dealing with. Weaver has her own haunted demons to battle and Hunter has work relationships that start to create stress, most notably with ex Will Patton. He plays a similar role as he did in Amiel’s Entrapment – a jilted ex who’s not a very pleasant person to be around – but he’s not all bad and by the end here he gains your sympathy.

Much was made of Harry Connick Jr. in this. His role as a disturbed killer was a step away from his Sinatra-light singing persona that he was most known for. He doesn’t get a lot of screentime, but he’s decent as Helen’s obsessed fan/murderer. There’s a few nice twists, some disturbing violent scenes and it’s interesting when things slow down long enough to examine the killers creative re-staging of famous murders.

The movie isn’t all that original. It’s not exactly a ‘whodunit’, but a ‘how-we-going-to-catch him’. There’s really no clear explanations for the copycat’s motives, which certainly would have made the character more interesting. At times the movie is a copycat of other parts from thrillers in the past, but it all comes together reasonably well and makes a suspenseful decent ride.


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3 Responses

  1. Capt Nemo says:

    Hunter and Mulroney make, hands down, the best cop pairs that I have seen in a long time. They have excellent chemistry together and somehow still look professional. Better than any cop pairing on television. If you ask me, Hollywood missed a franchise opportunity by not doing more movies with the Hunter & Mulroney pairing. They might have even revitalize the now dead mystery genre.

    I think Sigorney Weaver had a bit of a career bump at this time. She had revisited the Alien genre and was getting better roles in better movies. Until it tapered off in the 2000's. This movie was one of the ones were she showed what she could do. Unfortunately, it wasn't marketed that much at the time. In fact, if I remember correctly, you would have been hard pressed to find a movie theater that had this movie at the time. It wasn't given much of a release. Sad really.

    Also, this was one of the first movie to incorporate the internet into it's plotline. Kinda wacky when you see it. No urls or touchpads. I think this was the AOL version of the internet. A program that gave you email, some user nets, and maybe a search engine that can only look up other people who were also signed up with the same service as you.

    • spaceodds says:

      @ Capt Nemo
      I find that weird. Here in the UK, this film received a lot of advertising. There were billboards, bus stop posters, and a lot of posters on the tube (the subway in London) I thing the studio played up the fact that the film featured two female cops instead of the usual all male line up. And oddly enough that's the only thing I remember from this film. Another film that sticks in my mind that came out around the same time was the Madalene Stowe film Blink. These days both these films have gone very quickly under the radar. Hardly surprising since after Silence of the Lambs the only film that came close to being equally as good was, unsurprisingly, SE7EN.

      Weaver did really hit a bump in the 00's and Alien Resurrection certainly did not help matters

    • Capt. Nemo says:

      I watch Film Brain over at ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com. So he's my only window into the world of UK cinema and the cinema culture (for better or for worse). And Techmoan.com for everything else. But I digress.

      The impression I get is that the UK is used as a kind of "testing ground" for some movies that come out here in the U.S. I know a few that have had a UK release well before a USA release.

      It may have been that CopyCat was played in the United Kingdom first. Then judging by the results, they decided to tone it down here in the United States. But admittedly that's speculation based on a few assumptions.

      If you want to see the hard data, check out theses links:

      http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Copycat#tab=box-office

      http://www.the-numbers.com/box-office-chart/weekend/1995/10/27

      Please note the SE7EN was completing its run. That would have been a tough act to follow.

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