|Mr. Brooks (2007)
Kevin Costner, Demi
Moore, Dane Cook, William Hurt
Director: Bruce A. Evans
Given that the number of below-average thrillers flooding theaters these days is at a record high, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood finally got one right. It comes as a bit of surprise, however, that the one to break the streak is the work of writer/director Bruce A. Evans, a man who (along with penning “Cutthroat Island” and the Disney crapfest “Jungle 2 Jungle”) has only one other directorial credit to his name: the 1992 Christian Slater action-comedy “Kuffs.” Of course, when you have resident nice guy Kevin Costner risking career suicide by playing a serial killer in a film that’s as darkly comical as it is unique, it’s easy to see why “Mr. Brooks” could very well become the sleeper hit of the season.
Costner stars as the title character, a seemingly normal businessman who moonlights as a methodical serial murderer known as the Thumbprint Killer. Driven by his maniacal alter-ego (William Hurt) to kill again after a two year hiatus, Mr. Brooks’ identity is put at risk when an amateur photographer, Mr. Smith (Dane Cook), catches him in the act. Oddly enough, he has no plans to report Brooks to the police. It seems Mr. Smith has experienced a much-needed adrenaline rush from watching the murder from afar, and now he wants the chance to sit in on the next victim. Adding to Brooks’ troubles is a hotshot cop (Demi Moore) juggling one too many cases, and the return of his daughter from college, who he soon discovers may share the same illness as her father.
While the idea of serial killers as sick human beings (in the medical sense) isn’t exactly a new revelation, the way in which the script treats Mr. Brooks as a tragic anti-hero is certainly an interesting angle. It’s understood from the get-go that the killer is the main protagonist, but in what capacity is the audience supposed to relate to him? Should we pity him because he’s aware of his illness and wants to stop, admire him for his cunning brilliance, or simply root for him as he attempts to cover up his tracks? Believe it or not, it’s a little bit of all three, and while Mr. Brooks may not be as complex of a character as fellow serial killer Patrick Bateman (“American Psycho”), he’s just as fun to watch.
Now, that may sound a tad sadistic, but it isn’t meant to be, because at its root “Mr. Brooks” is one helluva black comedy. The trailers don’t seem to indicate even the slightest hint of humor, and you’ll definitely feel cautious about laughing along with Brooks and his alter-ego during their first few meetings, but every laugh is well-earned and (perhaps more importantly) expected. In fact, the scenes between Costner and Hurt are among the best of the film, and seeing as how the latter was nominated for playing the jovial madman in “A History of Violence” (albeit in much more limited role), it’s hard to imagine that his performance here won’t garner a little attention come awards time.
The rest of the cast is just as good. Costner plays Mr. Brooks with a creepy perfection, while the return of Demi Moore in a movie of actual substance is alone worth noting. And let’s not forget Dane Cook who, despite being cast as an extreme version of himself (i.e. the annoying guy), actually holds his own alongside such seasoned veterans. Unfortunately, it’s not likely that many people will find the chance to see the film. With so many big-budget blockbusters already bloating the summer season, it’s very easy for a movie like “Mr. Brooks” to get lost in the mix. Then again, there’s nothing else like it in the coming months, and with the right word of mouth, it might just make a bigger splash than expected.
I didn’t expect a lot from the single-disc release of “Mr. Brooks,” so it wasn’t much of a letdown when I sat down to discover the DVD had little to offer. With the exception of an audio commentary by director Bruce A. Evans and co-writer Raynold Gideon, the rest of the special features are relatively mediocre. Six deleted scenes offer an alternate (and inferior) opening sequence, as well as more backstory for Demi’s character, while the included production featurettes cover everything from the origins (“The Birth of a Serial Killer”) to the making-of the film, while also briefly commenting on the personalities of the three different killers (“Murder on Their Minds”). Not exactly mind-blowing stuff here, but it’s enough to give the impression that the studio hasn’t given up on the possibility of a franchise just yet.