America's fascination with violent movies must be looked upon by Hollywood with dollar signs in their eyes. In their latest business venture, Dr. Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver) is the target of a psychopathic copycat killer who wishes to make her the most famous serial killer victim in history. Guess what that makes him, then?
The movie starts off with an attack on Hudson, a criminal psychologist whose speciality is studying the minds of serial killers, just after she finishes giving a lecture on her favourite topic. She survives the attack, carried out by self-righteous killer Daryll Lee Cullem (played by Harry Connick Jr.), but becomes an agoraphobic and exiles herself to her apartment for some thirteen months. Her only connection to the outside world is through networked computers.
While Cullem is rotting in prison, there's another serial killer (William McNamara), who's successfully imitating other serial killers in history, on the loose in the streets of San Francisco. The detectives in charge of this case, M.J. Monahan (Holly Hunter) and Reuben Goetz (Dermot Mulroney), turn to Hudson for help. The rest of the story involves nailbiting suspense as Monahan and Hudson battle the copycat killer both physically and mentally.
The acting is top notch, the cinematography is excellent, and the suspense level is high throughout the movie, which makes the 2 hours pass by almost instantaneously. From the entertaintment perspective, it is money well spent. However, the plot has major problems. First of all, the ending is given away in the first part of the movie, where Hudson's dress is switched. Secondly, the incident involving Goetz seems completely out of place. Finally, the killers in this movie lack the sophistication of the killers in, say, Silence of the Lambs or Seven. The copycat isn't always in control, and Cullem is scary as a redneck killer, not the intellectual kind portrayed by Hannibal the Cannibal.
There is a lot of philosophising in the movie as to why serial killers kill: Hudson, in a Freudian style, says that it is how they get off. Personally, I think humans kill each other because there's no innate check built into us to prevent this happening. Contrast the behaviour of humans to the behaviour of other carnivores, who very rarely kill their own. Assuming the theory that the early humans were herbivores is true, it is conceivable that such a check was not evolutionarily selected for.