To Catch a Killer (2023)

To Catch a Killer (2023)

The makings of a decent thriller are brutally murdered by a comically bad script



United States of America
Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Arthur Holden, Ben Mendelsohn, Benz Antoine
119 min


All you need to know about this movie is that one of its characters unironically quotes Kurt Cobain’s “I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.”

What it's about

When a serial killer lets loose on Baltimore, a rookie cop with an instinctive understanding of the murderer is brought on board to assist with the FBI’s investigation.

The take

To Catch a Killer feels like a limited series shrunken down to fit a movie’s runtime: its many ideas, though potentially compelling on their own, are so underserved by the breezy treatment here that they lose all value. The film wants to hit every hot button — misogyny in the police force, demagoguery on TV news channels, high-level corruption, white supremacy, and the mental health crisis — but its frantic box-ticking makes it feel like a speed-run of topical issues rather than anything genuinely reflective. 

The characters feel similarly underdeveloped, not least star Shailene Woodley’s, a Clarice Starling wannabe who winds up delivering emotional counseling to the film’s bafflingly motivated serial killer in just one of many implausible scenes. Add to that the cringe-inducing dialogue, which is crammed to bursting point with clunky metaphors, and you can call off the manhunt —  the script is the real killer here.

What stands out

The cast — among them Ben Mendelsohn and Jovan Adepo — do their best, but even actors of this caliber can’t make lines like “Take your pills, ignore the clowns, fight the jackals” sound like something an actual human being would say. The film’s strongest element, then, is probably its paranoia-inducing opening scene, in which New Year’s Eve revelers are picked off at random by an unseen sniper, fireworks horrifyingly masking the sounds of the shooting. The problem is that, like so much of To Catch a Killer, these moments feel entirely divorced from the rest of the movie, which never matches its opening energy and fails to follow it up with a plot that even approaches credibility.


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