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‘To Catch A Killer’ movie review: Shailene Woodley leads a drab crime thriller

A still from ‘To Catch A Killer’
| Photo Credit: FilmNation Entertainment

As of the 150th day of this year, May 30, 2023, about 263 mass shootings were reported in the United States of America with 327 lives lost to violence. According to a report by Anti-Defamation League, most of these killings have been linked to a rise in extremist ideology in the U.S. So naturally, we are strung along for a movie that attempts to but fails at dissecting the issues of gun violence in America.

The film kicks off during the New Year’s Eve fireworks show when Eleanor Falco (Shailene Woodley), a beat cop, is called in to investigate a spate of shootings in Baltimore. She is one of the first officers at the crime scene and is quickly recruited by the FBI’s chief investigator, Lammark (Ben Mendelsohn), to profile the serial killer on the loose. Why? Because she supposedly has a “tortured psyche”.

To Catch A Killer (English)

Director: Damián Szifron

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ben Mendelsohn, Ralph Ineson, Jovan Adepo, Marcella Lentz-Pope, Rosemary Dunsmore

Runtime: 119 minutes

Storyline: A troubled police officer is recruited by the FBI’s chief investigator to help profile and track down a disturbed individual terrorizing Baltimore, Maryland.

The role of Eleanor is two-dimensional and Damián Szifron lets Shailene’s potential go unused. Ben Mendelsohn, on the other hand, as the chief FBI investigator, makes up for the shoddy screenplay with the charisma he brings to his character.

With grey pastels gracing the screen, the FBI team sets out chasing dead-end leads while the shooter continues to wreak havoc in the city leaving the investigators stumped. Watching the guys in uniform continuously chase after dead-end clues is exhausting and keeps the audience from being emotionally invested in the protagonists’ quest for justice. But Javier Juliá’s cinematography does a decent job of persuading the audience to persist.

Midway through the investigation, Eleanor suggests that the team needs to look into ex-military veterans with a keen understanding of sniper rifles. One wonders why the expert took so long to deduce what the audience is most likely to figure out in the first five minutes of the movie. Lammark and Eleanor are put on the right path and discover the killer in a remote cabin with attributes reminding one of Ted Kaczynski, infamously known as the Unabomber. This is followed by a shabby climax where the actions and motivations of certain characters are hard to comprehend.

Throughout the film, self-harm is almost underlined as a character trait. It is inconsistent with its treatment of characters suffering from mental health and fails to make a concise critique of the treatment these patients receive in the United States.

Even after two hours, one fails to understand the filmmaker’s intention: is this a political commentary on gun violence in America or a plea to look at the perpetrators with sympathy?

To Catch A Killer is currently in theatres

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