Mr. Brooks is one of those films which makes me a little crazy. On one hand you’ve got a pretty darn good character study of the mind of a serial killer and the look at his struggle for a normal existence. On the other hand, however, you’ve got a bland and laughable film about the millionaire cop trying (quite unsuccessfully) to bring him down. The result is a flawed film which is still very much worth watching.
3 & 1/2 Stars
Have you ever wanted to kill someone? What would happen if you acted on that impulse and it became an addiction that effected your otherwise normal life? Mr. Brooks examines these issues through the mind and eyes of a loving father and husband who has the rather unusual hobby of killing people.
Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) is a successful businessman, a loving husband, and a devoted father. Mr. Brooks however has a dark side which he hides from the world.
Daily he is forced to deal with a schizophrenic personality disorder and an evil alter-ego called Marshall (William Hurt) who only Earl can see and hear. It seems Marshall, and therefore Earl as well, enjoys the thrill of stalking and killing random strangers. This has been going on for many years, and although Earl understands and detests this addiction he can’t seem to stop.
Mr. Brooks has three other problems. The first occurs when he is caught in the act by a amateur photographer (Dane Cook) who wants only to blackmail him and tag-along on his next killing. The second is an obsessed millionaire cop (Demi Moore) stuck in a messy divorce who wants to track down the serial killer. And the third is his loving daughter Jane (Danielle Panabaker) who just may be more like her father than he’s willing to admit.
In terms of performance and tone the film works quite well, especially if you ignore most of Moore’s subplot. In fact her character isn’t really necessary in the film as Brooks is dealing with his own demons he doesn’t really need someone breathing down his neck (not that Moore’s character gets anywhere near that close). There’s also a subplot about another killer (Matt Schulze) with a grudge which doesn’t go anywhere. In fact the only reasons for these loosely tied subplots is to show how cleverly writer/director Bruce A. Evans can bring them together at the right moment. Which when you get down to it, really is not such a great reason for including them in the fim.
The scenes between Costner and Hurt are the best in the film dealing with who this character really is and, despite understanding how wrong it is, showing how much he both hates and enjoys killing. Added to this is his fear that he has passed on his condition to the next generation; how he deals with these issues leads to some unique and thrilling storytelling. Then Demi Moore shows up and you groan and wait for the director to get back to the good part of the film. Well, at least there are plenty of times to get up and go to the restroom or get more popcorn.
There are also a couple of real head-scratching moments including an unnecessary “shock” scene late in the movie which is so disturbing it comes close to being the final straw that ruins the picture. I won’t spoil the ending by telling you about it other than to say I found it ill-conceived.
Saddled with a ridiculous subplot the film still succeeds in giving a unique look into the life of a killer. The movie never excuses his killings or apologizes for them, but it also shows the other sides of his personality which are frighteningly normal compared to his “condition.” For me it’s not as good as 2000’s American Psycho, but it is a unique film experience with a compelling storyline and strong performances from most of the lead actors – that’s more than you get from most summer films.