In his most unique role to date, Kevin Costner plays a conflicted serial killer who has to deal with the stresses that every normal family man has to deal with: how to satisfy a curious voyeur who has evidence proving he is the Thumbprint Killer, how to accept the fact that his daughter may be just as screwed up as he is, how to get a persistent cop off his back, and how to hide it all from his wife.
Mr. Brooks is an interesting and original movie told from the perspective of a serial killer, a man who doesn't want to kill but is addicted to it nonetheless. He is the perfect killer: smart, successful and invisible. He cleans up his crime scenes and there are never any witnesses... until he forgets to close the drapes one evening and gets caught on camera by comedian-wannabe-actor Dane Cook. The movie progresses from there, with Mr. Brooks working out issues with his daughter (Danielle Panabaker) and wife (Marg Helgenberger) and arguing with his imaginary and evil friend, played by William Hurt. Demi Moore plays the cop, who is also dealing with another serial killer and a bitter divorce.
Mr. Brooks works in that it is really unlike anything we've seen before. There have been plenty of serial killer movies over the years, some of them good, some of them not so good, but for the most part, you know what you're going to get. Mr. Brooks is not a fantastic serial killer movie by any stretch of the imagination, but while the movie does offer some perspective from Moore's point of view, most of the film is presented through the eyes of Costner, who delicately plays a man who is almost normal but in reality anything but.
The acting is off-and-on for everyone involved, but it looks like everyone is having fun. Costner, who usually plays baseball players or nice guys, is clearly having a thrill playing a villain for once (the closest thing he has played to someone dark is his comical character in 3,000 Miles to Graceland). It isn't Costner's finest performance, but it is a different performance, and that's nice to see. Hurt is especially good as Costner's alter ego; he really seems to be having fun playing a figment of the imagination whose only job is to provide paranoid logic and evil suggestions to the man who can execute his wants and needs. Moore is relatively flat, though her character isn't very interesting to begin with. While the movie offers some insight into her background, namely her divorce proceedings, she is still a one-dimensional character, and Moore does little to elevate her performance to compensate. As for Cook, he just looks happy to be playing a serious role, but I can't say I was a big fan of him here. I've never found him overly funny, but he is definitely better at comedy than he is at serious acting; who knows, he may surprise in coming years, but I think a different actor would have been a better choice for his character.
The spotty acting is enhanced by the screenplay, which in some ways is good but in some ways overly simple. The dialogue is inconsistent, and you can tell all of the actors struggled to make everything sound convincing. The screenwriters rush through certain scenes that should have been developed more, though the movie is certainly well paced in most instances. While the dialogue is awkward in a few parts, the movie maintains a high level of tension throughout, though I think director Bruce Evans could have even amped the excitement factor up a bit more at times.
Nevertheless, Mr. Brooks is an enjoyable film. Not flawless, but enjoyable. It isn't as good as I was hoping, but it isn't a disaster by any means. Some people are really going to like the movie, and others are going to hate it, so be warned! Regardless, you have to give Costner props for continuing to experiment with ways to get his career back on track. Mr. Brooks, judging by its financial performance, isn't going to do that, but it's a step in the right direction.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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