Costner misses as 'Mr. Brooks'

He's an aw-shucks psychopath in a serially silly sick flick

Posted: June 01, 2007

"Mr. Brooks" gives us a vague idea of what the "Fight Club" guys would have been like in middle age.

The title role goes to Kevin Costner, and one is tempted to say he's cast against type here as a serial killer, but the truth is, Costner doesn't really stretch. He's his old, chummy self - nice to his wife, loving to his daughter.

The movie uses Costner's accessibility to pose a question: What if a serial killer were an otherwise nice guy, who tried really hard to control his urge to kill? What if, for instance, he was part of a 12-step program and attended regular meetings in an effort to control his problem?

"Mr. Brooks" uses still another gimmick to separate the likable Costner from his inner Tyler Durden (the Brad Pitt role in "Fight Club") - Brooks' bloody id, the bad half of his split personality, is represented by William Hurt.

While Brooks talks about resisting his urges, Hurt's character taunts him and eggs him on, leading to a prurient sex/murder scene that director Bruce Evans seems to enjoy as much as Hurt.

The meticulous Brooks is a famous for leaving no loose ends, but he makes a mistake this time, leading to an interesting plot wrinkle, and the less said about it the better.

Suffice it to say, though, that mistake leaves a strong scent for the detective (Demi Moore) who's tracked his killings for years. She senses that he's rusty, and feels like she's on the edge of a major break, but there's a complication.

It's another killer. A guy she's convicted has escaped from prison and is looking for revenge. Turns out, Portland has more serial and spree killers than coffee shops - there are still more that figure into the movie's increasingly ludicrous narrative.

This lack of credibility finds visual expression in one of the most ridiculous gunfights ever photographed - the detective shoots it out with a guy in a narrow corridor, managing somehow to miss at a distance of maybe five yards. In the middle of this, she decides she'd prefer the cover of darkness, so she shoots the flourescent bulbs out. Remember, she can't hit a large man fifteen feet away, but she has no trouble hitting a series of inch-wide bulbs in rapid succession.

It was at this point that I gave up, but the screenwriters stick with the story to the end, finding a convoluted way to tie these and other serial killers together.

Along the way, they establish a cat/mouse relationship between Brooks and the detective, with a very weird undertone - the mutual respect of worthy adversaries, weirdly accented with Costner's aw-shucks-ness.

He's like a midwestern Lecter, and like Hannibal, he's a man of wealth and refined tastes. The detective has a grudging admiration for him, but the movie "Mr. Brooks" is not so abashed. It fawns over his wealth like Robin Leach.

Its opinion of the movie's other killers, who are impolite, badly dressed or poor, is not so favorable. As you might have guessed, nothing Mr. Brooks does is as sick as this movie's world view. *

Produced by Kevin Costner, Raynold Gideon and Jim Wilson, directed by Bruce Evans, written by Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon, music by Ramin Djawadi, distributed by MGM.

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