DIRECTED BYBruce A. Evans
STARRINGKevin Costner - Earl Brooks
William Hurt - Marshall
Dane Cook - Mr. Smith
Demi Moore - Detective Tracy Atwood
Marg Helgenberger - Emma Brooks
Year - 2007
Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4
Mr. Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) has just been named Portland's Man of the Year. He loves his family, he's pretty rich from his business ventures, and likes to use some of his evenings continuing his hobby of making pottery. However, Mr. Brooks suffers from a deep, dark addiction - serial killing. He wants to stop [he's been sober for two years] but his inner voice Marshall (William Hurt) convinces Mr. Brooks to kill again. Mr. Brooks is not just any serial killer - he's the Thumbprint killer, a highly effective killer that never leaves a trace of DNA or evidence behind. However after murdering a dance couple, Brooks is caught on photos by a thrill-seeking neighbor who calls himself Mr. Smith (Dane Cook). Smith makes a deal with Brooks - he'll give Brooks the photos if Brooks takes him along to his next murder. While Brooks agrees, it may just lead to his capture as a hard-nosed detective (Demi Moore) is on the case and on his ass.
Let me first say that I am NOT a Kevin Costner fan. Actually, I find his films mostly to be boring and just plain unwatchable. He's either good in a role or just really bad, which makes me very hesitant to watch any of his movies. That being said, MR. BROOKS is a pretty good film and Kevin Costner is excellent in the title role.
It's actually an interesting film. I like the idea of a serial killer who goes to meetings to stop his addiction of murdering innocent people. I'm sure it's been done to death before, but it's nice to see the idea taken seriously for a change instead of being used as satire to create some kind of social commentary. What we get here is a straight-forward thriller and I appreciated that.
Going back to Costner, I think this is one of his best roles. I usually find the guy dull to watch, but I was captivated by his performance here. Earl Brooks is written like a real person with real thoughts and feelings, which Costner portrays perfectly. You know he doesn't want to murder people because of his family and career, but that thrill just keeps coming back and he has no choice but to feed his addiction. I loved the dance he does after he murders the dance couple while they're screwing. It perfectly shows the high Brooks is on after he gets the job done. But then after he does it, he feels bad as if his secret is eating away at him. It's just so believable. Costner shows a lot of heart and somber in the title role that I actually felt for him. Sometimes we want to be good people but something inside our psyche doesn't allow that to happen in a way that we would want it to. And when he figures out his daughter's reason for dropping out of college and blames himself for it - I totally bought it.
What helps Costner is his on-screen relationship with his alter-ego Marshall, played exceptionally by William Hurt. They played off each other so well and really went for that "grey area" when it came to Mr. Brooks' true nature. Was he a good guy? Was he a bad guy? Was he normal? Costner's and Hurt's performances are gonna make people question that about Mr. Brooks. I really enjoyed their mental sparring, sort of like two people playing a game of Chess, that no one saw or heard but them. And I'm happy it didn't go into a multiple personality thing because that could have been easy. While Marshall is always there talking to Brooks, it's Brooks who's always in control no matter what.
While the film was strongest with Costner and Hurt was on screen, I also thought the storyline with Brooks' daughter, played by Danielle Panabaker was interesting. Usually the daughter role is just there to show the audience that the main character is a father and family man, either being a nuisance or a non-factor what so ever. Here, the daughter is a big part of Brooks' story. It made me question whether father and daughter share more than just DNA. Obviously, we figure it out as the film goes along but it's nice for the daughter to actually have a purpose to intensify the inner struggle for the main character. Is murder hereditary? Hmmm...
I thought the gory scenes were pretty cool too. There's really two major ones towards the end, but they both satisfied by blood lust. Sweet throat slice via a shovel and a scissors jab to the neck - sweet times.
As for the rest of the film, it was a mixed bag for me. Dane Cook was okay as the annoying Mr. Smith. I disagree with people who said he was the best part of the film, because he wasn't. But it was one of his better roles [which isn't saying much] and he worked his obnoxiousness in his favor. I also found his character absolutely ridiculous, because who would confront an actual killer with photos just to be a sidekick for a killer? Use extortion, pal! Get some money out of the deal! Does jail and getting raped by big dudes sound real good? It didn't make sense! At least the outcome was better than GOOD LUCK CHUCK, from what I've heard about that film.
Demi Moore was good as the lead detective for the Thumbprint Killer case [a role originally written for Ashton Kutcher]. She's always been believably tough and determined in many of her roles, and this one is no exception. However, I thought her storyline was established TOO much for a non-main character. Her divorce and her ex-husband (SEX AND THE CITY's Jason Lewis) wanting millions of dollars from her was a good backstory to explain her obsession with wanting something good to happen her way, like solving her case. But the film seemed to focus more than it should have on it and kind of ruined the pacing of the film. The film should have been about Mr. Brooks and the people around him. Having her major arc pretty much separated the film into two different films that only came together towards the end. Felt out of place and it wasn't all that interesting actually.
Actually, the film had a major problem of setting up one sub-plot after another after another AFTER another - I was confused on what to focus on. It's nice that the director and writers didn't try to play the film safe, but they crammed a bit too much for 2 hours. Plus what was the point of Marg Helgenberger? She was just there as the wife. Something more could have been done with her. There seemed to be a bigger angle there that wasn't written or filmed. Shame because Helgenberger is a good actress.
I thought the direction by Bruce A. Evans [who wrote and directed the Christian Slater film KUFFS] was pretty good. Nice slow motion, great establishing shots, effective use of close-ups and now camera movements. I liked his style...until he did the action scenes. It became like a music video every time the action would pick up. Especially that last shoot-out scene with Demi Moore. What was that? Felt like I was watching a different movie. The editing could have been better too. But the film was still watchable.
THE FINAL HOWL
MR. BROOKS is a watchable film even with its flaws. Costner and Hurt give excellent performances and the main story is entertaining. Too bad there were too many sub-plots and my suspension of belief meter went into overload half of the time. But I liked the film and it's good for a rental. I have a feeling we'll be seeing MR. BROOKS again very soon. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.