Directed by Jon Amiel. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney, William McNamara, Will Patton, Harry Connick, Jr. (1995, R, 110 min.)

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Oct. 27, 1995

Serial killers are in vogue in the movies -- witness the popular and critical success of Seven, an exquisite piece of in-your-gut filmmaking if there ever was one. Copycat is also about a serial killer, but it's too gimmicky to knock you on your ass; you may marvel at some of the narrative turns, but you won't lose yourself in this movie. The plot wrinkles here are two-fold: a highly intelligent killer who mimics the murders of America's infamous from the Boston Strangler to Jeffrey Dahmer, and an agoraphobic forensic psychologist who's unwillingly drawn into helping solve the slayings. It's an occasionally entertaining ride, although one fraught with numerous logical holes. For instance, why must the stupidity of the police be inversely proportionate to the smarts of the killer? The film's screenplay offers a couple of genuine surprises -- the murderer's planned piece de resistance is unexpected -- but there's an overall pedestrian feeling about it, particularly in its killer-gets-his ending. In the ostentatious role of the celebrated criminologist who shuts herself off from the world, Weaver perfects the details of her character, down to the constant off-and-on grapplings with a pair of eyeglasses. Hunter is all no-nonsense as a detective investigating the seemingly unrelated murders, but if she isn't careful, those tics and mannerisms may soon become an acting cliché. Her symbiotic rhythm with fellow detective Mulroney, however, is pretty good; their characters are appealingly in sync with each other. Despite the freshness of their chemistry, most of Copycat feels way too familiar. As its title indicates, it's lacking in imagination, a movie with too few original thoughts in its head.

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