After a brief hiatus, Golden Globe Nominee Shailene Woodley returns to cinemas in To Catch A Killer from Vertical. Damián Szifron directs the film in addition to co-writing the screenplay with Jonathan Wakeham.
It's New Year's Eve in Charm City, and a madman has just gone on a shooting rampage. Eleanor Falco (Woodley) is a young police investigator wrestling with the demons of her past when she is recruited by the FBI's chief investigator Geoffrey Landmark (Ben Mendelsohn), to help profile and track the work of the disturbed individual.
As the police and FBI launch a nationwide manhunt, they are thwarted at every turn by the individual's unprecedented behavior. Given her tortured psyche, Eleanor may be the only person who can understand the mind of their assailant and bring him to justice.
Shailene Woodley's career is something of an enigma. First gaining momentum in 2008 when she toplined the ABC Family series The Secret Life of the American Teenager, she would go on to receive critical raves for her performances in The Descendants, The Speculator Now, and The Fault in our Stars, which led to a starring role in The Divergent Series. I am a fan of her work; she hits more than she misses.
Unfortunately, her latest film role is a miss. For starters, the promotional materials paint Woodley's character as a modern-day Clarice Starling, which will set unrealistic expectations. Woodley tries her best to elevate the material, but the weak script by Szifron and Wakeham doesn't know the proper direction to take her character, and thus we can't sympathize with her struggle.
The usually reliable Ben Mendelsohn is on autopilot for the entire film, and his performance screams I'm only here for a paycheck. Worst of all, the vastly talented Jovan Adepo is stuck with another underwritten role following last year's misfire, Babylon. You can remove his character from the film; nothing would change regarding the plot structure. And while I won't reveal who our villain is when we learn his identity in the film's climax, it's weak, and they come off more as a petty thug.
Szifron and Wakeham's script attempts to delve into video game violence, gun control, and other weak propaganda to justify our antagonist's motive, but none of it works, and I'm optimistic that the misinformed and conspiracy crowd will have a field day after seeing the film. Almost a decade ago, Szifron was primed to be the next big thing in Hollywood following the positive reception of his film Wild Tales. Hollywood superstar Mark Wahlberg even recruited him to direct an adaptation of The Six Million Dollar Man.
I will give him credit for the opening sequence and a few other action moments, but they are minimal. With a snail's pace, mundane script, and terrible villain, Szifron' s destroys any promise once showed with this film.
Final Grade : D-
TO CATCH A KILLER
Only In Theaters Nationwide April 21, 2023