‘To Catch a Killer’ Review: Shailene Woodley Leads Serial Killer Movie
BAFTA winner Damián Szifron co-wrote and directed this dated, bad-tasting serial killer thriller.
If a tired retelling of a serial killer thriller is released in theaters and no one sees it, did it really happen? Unfortunately yes.
In To Catch a Killer, her first film in two years, Shailene Woodley (who also produced the film) tries to create her own image of the inimitable Clarice Starling. But we’ve all seen “To Catch a Killer”: The thriller is a watered-down version of the psychological serial killer drama, with everything from “The Silence of the Lambs” to “The Zodiac.” The Dark Knight’ and ‘The Batman’. Imitation? This is not always the highest form of flattery.
The film is the English-language debut of director Damián Szifron. After collaborating with producer Pedro Almodóvar on the 2014 Cannes-selected satirical “Wild Tales,” which at the time had the biggest opening in Argentine film history, Sifron virtually disappeared from filmmaking for more than a decade, despite Mark was standing Wahlberg’s “Six Billion Dollar Man” remake. Well, “To Catch a Killer” is Szifron’s misdirected (literally) return, co-written with Jonathan Wakeham.
The film opens with a stunning massacre: an expert sniper slaughters more than 25 random people in Baltimore while shooting into the air during a New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Eleanor Falco (Woodley) is one of the first cops on the scene of a particularly devastating murder of a young boy; he is soon recruited by the FBI’s lead detective (Ben Mendelsohn) to help him profile and hunt down the killer.
According to the official synopsis (yes, that includes Jodie Foster’s desperate appeal to Clarice Starling), Eleanor’s “tortured psyche” makes her “the only person capable of understanding their attacker’s thoughts and bringing them to justice. ” But why does the FBI pick him up so casually and so quickly? Because Eleanor has the traumatic background and there is really smart and other obscure reasons.
Most of his “investigation” comes from eavesdropping on what real FBI agents, led by Mendelsohn’s character, are saying. It’s not until halfway through the film that Eleanor announces that because the shooter is a sniper, the agency should be looking for ex-military veterans with sniper backgrounds. Wouldn’t that be one of the first things the FBI would do? Even a quintessential procedural show like “Law & Order” could do better — and provide better pacing.
Mendelsohn’s casting of FBI agent Mendelsohn is distracting enough as a “Dark Knight Rises” alum that makes it obvious how badly “To Catch a Murderer” fits in with Christopher Nolan’s films and other crime dramas. The color palette is the same – depressing gray – as the general mood, as the endless stakes matches prove fruitless, the cops only find a lead after another shootout.
Throw in heavy-handed political commentary on gun violence, right-wing media and first-person shooter video games, and “To Catch a Killer” makes even less sense. It’s hard not to laugh out loud when Eleanor reveals her own dark past that led her to become a cop: it’s shot like a comedy and makes you wonder whether or not Szifron took Woodley’s obvious acting vehicle seriously.
It would be grotesque to compare how “To Catch a Killer” tries to make a paced remake of David Fincher’s “Zodiac”, a true masterpiece. It would also be in poor taste to convey the repulsive effect of the violent sequences, which range from racist motivations to the need to clean up the United States to a national “reset” with a Qanon-pious spirit. There is no commentary or thoughtful explanation for any of it, just blind statements sent out to excite and confuse the audience.
It is enough to think really crazy: Should we be like that? rooting to this killer? Considering how hard we’re forced to believe that a homeless veteran is the one who slaughters dozens of people in public due to a combat head injury, it’s a legitimate question. But there is no real answer here, just as the film has no real message. It’s not ‘Zodiac’, it’s not ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ and it’s not any movie worth watching.
Vertical will release “To Catch a Killer” in theaters on Friday, April 21st.
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