To Catch a Killer
On New Year’s Eve, the celebrations in Baltimore turn into a panic when a sniper opens fire on the crowd. The building the shots come from explodes, and a troubled beat cop, Eleanor Falco (Shailene Woodley), rushes to the scene. Her quick thinking and initiative catch the eye of a seasoned FBI agent (Ben Mendelsohn), who promptly hires her as a liaison for the case, believing her keen observation skills will help catch the perpetrator. But with no evidence at the scene to go on, and the killer demonstrating deadly marksmanship, bringing them to justice won’t be easy.
The opening of Damián Szifron’s To Catch a Killer sets viewers up for what looks to be a taut cat-and-mouse chase, in which every lead must be tirelessly pursued until the shooter is eventually discovered. However, that isn’t what the bulk of this thriller entails – rather, the script puts the police procedural aspects of the genre on the back burner through much of the runtime to instead set its sights on a broader critique of society. Conversations between characters dip into issues of racial profiling, online conspiracy theories, corruption, disability and even animal cruelty. It’s an ambitious amount of ground to cover thematically, but Szifron and co-writer Johnathan Wakeham take a solid crack at it. Unfortunately, they spread their ambition too thinly to make effective use of any of the themes they incorporate into their script.
This lack of development likewise extends to the characters. While the core cast do a commendable job in their respective roles, none are given much to work with. Aside from the killer (who’s also played with conviction by an actor who won’t be spoiled here), Woodley’s Falco is the only one who’s not a two-dimensional archetype. It’s unfortunate, then, that not much space is given to explore either of these key players, with the misstep felt in the lacklustre confrontation between characters.
Even with its solid foundation, the investigation side of To Catch a Killer similarly falls flat when it comes to its execution. With no interesting roles or ideas to latch onto, all that’s left is a collection of paint-by-numbers plot beats that leave little impact.
To Catch a Killer is released on Sky on 27th May 2023.
Watch the trailer for To Catch a Killer here: