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4 reviews, 26 user ratings

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Mr. Brooks
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by Erik Childress

"Sardonicus Has Got Nothing On This Mister."
4 stars

While I often accuse films of having a schizophrenic approach to their material, it’s nice to see one actually embrace it unapologetically. Take one part American Psycho, add a dash of A History of Violence, marinate it in Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series, then sautee it between two different serial killer movies, make a plate for your imaginary friend and suggest the threat of serious bodily harm to Dane Cook for dessert and you’ve got yourself the Mr. Brooks special. It’s here where I can add all sort of food adjectives to accentuate how delightfully twisted this film is, but I’d rather loosen my belt and digest it like the best pig-out meal my dark side relishes from time-to-time. How can your appetite not be wetted with an opening scrawl that reads “the hunger has returned to Mr. Brooks’ brain?”

Kevin Costner’s name is Earl. Earl Brooks. He’s the man of the year, runs a successful boxing company and has a loving wife (Marg Helgenberger) and a daughter (Danielle Panabaker) at college. Then there’s Marshall (William Hurt), the imaginary “hunger” who loves to talk Earl into doing some really bad things. He’s been a good boy for two years thanks to some help from AA meetings, a gathering that doesn’t know when Earl says “drink” he really means “kill.” Like that dancing couple he’s been seeing around. Why them? Why not? Mr. Brooks is an addict. But unlike a sloppy alcoholic hiding bottles in the most obvious of places, Earl is meticulous, killing indiscriminantly but covering his tracks down to the last fiber. But, this night, Mr. Brooks may have made a mistake.

A peeping tom from across the way (Dane Cook) caught Earl through the open curtains and brings the photographs to his attention. Mr. Smith, as he asks to be called, isn’t interested in money or justice though. He wants a mentor to feed that killer rush he got when he saw the murder take place. Earl agrees. Marshall concurs. Mr. Smith isn’t the only one onto Mr. Brooks though. Detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore) was lead on the notorious “Thumbprint Killer” case and sees the latest murder as no mere copycat. She may be the law, but her personal life is a mess compared to her adversary. Her philandering ex-husband is out for a chunk of the $60 million she has in the bank. Yes, a cop with $60 million and change in savings. For that kind of price, Tracy wouldn’t mind if he would just drop dead. See where this is going?

But you don’t, really. While you can begin to ruminate on how all the plot strands are going to diverge like a pileup not seen since the filming of The Blues Brothers, Mr. Brooks keeps us going like curious cats destined for an untimely finish. If Earl and sociopath-in-training, Mr. Smith, aren’t enough serial murderers for you, Det. Atwood is also being stalked by an escaped maniac known as “The Hangman”, whose visual handywork in one scene shows he may give you a few more letter chances in the word game. Director Bruce A. Evans (whose only prior directorial effort was the Christian Slater vehicle, Kuffs, way back in 1992) divides up his own style between the parallel storylines. Earl’s story is more subdued in classic thriller mode while Atwood’s brush-ups with her nemesis take a frenetic action pace right down to a pretty ridiculous hallway shootout that will give the makers of Hot Fuzz a few ideas for a sequel.

Even with, maybe, the loudest recorded gunshots on cinematic record, this is no commentary on the bullets-vs.-brains mentality to procedual thrillers. At least, it doesn’t play that way since the psychology in place wants us looking inward only to get headbutted with kidnapping, fast cars and gunfire. It’s an odd mix and yet somehow all works. The script by Evans and Raynold Gideon, originally conceived as a Ripleyeseque series of three Mr. Brooks cases, ranges from the Guignol school of theater to the generational implications of a perceived genetic “sickness.” Just as any other storyline is enough for its own film, Earl’s relationship with his daughter takes so many loony turns, we wouldn’t be surprised if she turned out to be an undercover FBI agent who was really a boy. With a backstory that delivers a new piece everytime she makes an appearance, it’s enough to give any father in the audience pause and the added scruples play of how far you’re willing to go to protect your child.

Costner has done solid work recently in films like The Upside of Anger and Open Range, but I can’t see a role since Tin Cup that he’s had so much fun with. He’s a dispicable human being and proof of the classic Hitchcock adage that an audience will love any character who is good at his job. And he’s REALLY good at it. It helps when you apparently have a wife who doesn’t ask any questions or suspect a thing as you head out, seemingly, every night of the week to spend time at your “studio.” Moore and Cook’s roles aren’t nearly as juicy. The latter, particularly, is more unintentionally funny in some of his tenser moments than he is making attempts at humor on stage. Panabaker (known best as James Woods' daughter on TV's Shark) deserves a special mention for a pair of alternately mysterious and creepy scenes with Costner in her first and last scenes. But William Hurt seems to have done a Purple Rose of Cairo right off the set of A History of Violence with the same brand of maniacal derangement that earned him an Oscar nomination for barely 10 minutes of screen time. It’s as if that film somehow crossed paths with A Guy Named Joe and Hurt’s deathly punishment was to be the guardian angel of another lunatic. Or Hell’s sick joke to try and make him get Kevin Costner do what you ask of him.

Mr. Brooks isn’t up to the same standards of Cronenberg’s film, nor any of the individual ingredients on their own. And still it’s a tasty stew for anyone with a macabre stomach lining. It’s sense of humor is dependent on your ability to connect with your inner psychopath and root for the bad guy. It’s entire existence begs for you to overlook any questions you may have about the methods to its madness and the behavioral patterns of characters who don’t have to be doing what they’re doing, but faced with a need to do them. Chop the final ninety seconds off the film and you have one of the most shocking finales in recent movie memory. Combine that with one character getting the tastiest of just desserts for my money and I’m facetiously ready to call Mr. Brooks the greatest movie of all time (Note to studio: use any other quote of mine but that if you want.) But my inner critic (I call him McLuhan) is telling me not to go overboard even as I feel that recommending Mr. Brooks as one of the grander Guignol experiences of late is the right thing to do.

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originally posted: 06/01/07 14:00:00
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User Comments

11/15/18 Anne 1/2 way thru got so bored; preposterous and didn't finish 2 stars
4/15/17 morris campbell solid serial killer movie solid performances 4 stars
4/17/16 arnmmwerp USA 3 stars
7/20/09 Abhishek Chakraborty The pure definition of a good psychological thriller.Totally believable and original story. 5 stars
3/28/09 Monday Morning Screw you, Shortt. Good twisty film, but Kostner's keister isn't what it used to be. 4 stars
3/21/08 Stephanie This movie was absoluetly amazing. Watching a second time cleared up any questions. 5 stars
2/15/08 JAL William Hurt was delightfully wicked! 4 stars
1/24/08 George Chabot Solid psychological thriller 4 stars
1/04/08 Closet Cock Costner is solid in a merely okay killer flick 3 stars
11/18/07 GCC Worth a look just for Hurt's performance/Costner good too though 4 stars
11/14/07 mike unique movie that kept my interests throughout. very surprised and pleased with this rental 5 stars
10/30/07 action movie fan fairly interesting but needed more suspense and explanation for mr brooks murder spree 3 stars
10/24/07 William Goss Cluttered, clumsy, and damn near campy serial killer bonanza. 2 stars
9/24/07 Danny Boy Totally captivating dark and very disturbing movie! Simply the best film I've seen in years 5 stars
8/21/07 samuel kick back, no brainer, wonderful, delightful entertainment..i liked it more than 'Lambs' 5 stars
8/05/07 Kelly Whitekiller Costner was very, very good. 4 stars
8/01/07 Daphne Sterling DMoore has too much history to be credible or likeable in roll, spoiling promising thriller 2 stars
7/03/07 laura bennett okay....cant really make a good scary movie today...but okay 4 stars
6/21/07 Ole Man Bourbon Expected Costner to say something about "the sreaming of the lambs," but good 4 stars
6/16/07 jcjs fine, entertaining, right on, fun, great acting, clever, real, lovely piece, masterpiece 5 stars
6/16/07 fools♫gold Doesn't go for the obvious ending. 5 stars
6/16/07 D Surprisingly good 4 stars
6/10/07 Reginald Lawrence Started of excellent but the left alot of loose ends that didn'nt make sense. 3 stars
6/05/07 PJK Costner carries it. 4 stars
6/03/07 Koitus Outside of the "too convenient STUDIO" - yes, this was a good movie! Intricately-laid plot 4 stars
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  01-Jun-2007 (R)
  DVD: 23-Oct-2007



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Bruce A. Evans

Written by
  Bruce A. Evans
  Raynold Gideon

  Kevin Costner
  William Hurt
  Demi Moore
  Dane Cook

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