Copycat has both the smarts and the tension to rate as a potent entry in the over-worked serial-killer genre. An upscale suspenser by virtue of its classy cast, its extremely bright characters and the chillingly intellectual approach of the murderer, this shrewdly devised pulse-pounder may actually be too refined to click in a big way with mass audiences.
Audience suspense is not at all related to whodunnit, but to how the insidiously ingenious villain will be tracked down.
Criminal psychologist Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver) delivers a tart lecture in which she points out that 90% of all serial killers are white males between 20 and 35 years old. One of them, redneck Daryll Lee Cullum (Harry Connick Jr), is in the audience; in a very tense scene, he circumvents security, kills a cop and nearly finishes off Hudson in a bathroom before being caught.
Thirteen months later, Hudson’s trauma has made her so agoraphobic she can’t bear to leave her apartment or return to her job. But when homicide detective M.J. Monahan (Holly Hunter) is faced with some murders that suggest a new serial killer, she and her partner Ruben (Dermot Mulroney) pay a call on Hudson, whose interest is inevitably piqued by the kinky details of the cases.
As the murders mount, Hudson figures out that the psychopath is imitating some of the most infamous serial killers. This is a murderer with a sense of history, killings as homages to the masters.
Genuine interest is generated in the main characters thanks to better-than-usual writing for this sort of piece and ultra-sharp performances by the lead thesps. Director Jon Amiel delivers the nerve-racking goods in the final showdown between Hudson and her nemesis.