Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Movies

Profiler Movies

Taking Lives
Taking Lives

Angelina Jolie starrs as FBI profiler Illeana Scott in Taking Lives (2004).  Thanks in large part to The Silence of the Lambs and books by former FBI profilers, such as John Douglas's Mindhunter and Robert Ressler, Whoever Fights Monsters, movies about profilers chasing down serial killers have proliferated, to the point of being hackneyed or highly inaccurate.

The fact that a profiler must go to Canada to teach law enforcement there about profiling is a strike against the film; it's condescending.  Canadians have a superior system these days and might like collaboration but are far past the Keystone Kops featured in this film. Add in her inappropriate clothing and her need to go lie in a grave to get a sense of the killer and you have a preposterous scenario, stretching things even beyond the Harris plot of an agent-in-training taking on the most dangerous serial killer all by herself.

At any rate, the plot features a renowned FBI profiler, Illeana Scott, summoned to assist law enforcement in Montreal.  They must identify a serial killer who assumes the lives and identities of the people he kills.  Scott finds herself at odds with the people she's supposed to be helping, and then rather stupidly violates ethics to get involved with a witness (Ethan Hawke) — a man who, for all she knows, could be the killer.  One can only wonder how she acquired the reputation of being so good at her job.  She's not.  She should know better than to accept anyone at face value who's part of an investigation.  But then, this agent goes grave-diving rather than studying crime reports.

Her violation of protocol is nearly as bad as the FBI agent who goes out to meet a potential killer in Frailty (2001), when a religious nut gets the idea that he has to kill people he thinks are filled with demons.

Blood Work
Blood Work

In Blood Work (2002), Clint Eastwood plays a retired profiler, Terry McCaleb, who must return to work to identify a killer, thanks in part of his own heart transplant.  The clues point to an unsolved series of cases from his career, but casting Jeff Daniels in a "bit" part — the neighbor, Jasper Noone - is too great a giveaway as to what his real role would be.  How is it that a profiler of McCaleb's stature has no third eye for his own backyard?

Yet even as profilers come in for Hollywood's mismanagement, serial killers, too, can sometimes become the butt of a joke.


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