A muddled script and bad acting doom 'The Killing Mind'


April 23, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

"The Killing Mind" has an intriguing concept -- a police officer who literally can enter the mind of a serial killer in order to catch him or her.

Sound familiar? Like maybe "The Silence of the Lambs"? But that premise is the only thing these two share. Instead of Jodie Foster in the starring role, this is a TV movie with Stephanie Zimbalist at its center. To put it politely, loaded with talent she ain't.

The two-hour film, which airs at 9 tonight on the Lifetime cable channel, has further problems. They include such a muddled script and confusing character development that we can move the film straight into the what-a-mess category.

The confusion starts with Zimbalist's character, Detective Isobel Neiman, who has been trained by the FBI to do psychological profiles of killers based on evidence at the scene of the crime. Neiman is supposed to be the consummate professional law enforcement officer. That's what the dialogue indicates, anyway. But on her first day of work at the Los Angeles Police Department, she arrives very late. Why? Because she took a train instead of a plane from Washington, D.C. "I guess I needed the time to decompress," she explains casually.

This is a consummate professional? Maybe punctuality wasn't in the FBI training manual. Maybe Neiman is a little bit of a hot-dog. Who knows? Such clarity is way beyond this script.

Then there is Zimbalist herself. She seems to struggle for a Sigourney Weaver persona in the worst way -- tough, brilliant, sexy, a bit of a smart mouth.

Unfortunately, she conveys none of these traits. As an actress, she is woefully short on technique. She can't convey emotions except though facial expressions and voice -- small parts of the repetoire of an accomplished actor or actress.

When Zimbalist is called on to show how her character gets in touch with the killer's mind -- and in some cases the victim's -- the results are ludicrous. It is hard to tell whether she's someone having a bad experience with clairvoyance or a pepperoni pizza.

"The Killing Mind" is the brain dead of made-for-TV movie fare.

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