Mr. Brooks (2007)
Mr. Brooks (2007)

Genre: Psychological Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs.

Release Date: June 1st, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Bruce A. Evans Actors: Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, Dane Cook, William Hurt, Marg Helgenberger, Danielle Panabaker, Reiko Aylesworth, Yasmine Delawari, Traci Dinwiddie

 


 

M

r. Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) leads a normal life, running his box design business, admiring his lovely wife, and coping with a typical, troubled teenage daughter. Normal, that is, except for Marshall (William Hurt), his alternate personality, who continues to coerce him into committing homicide. Constantly fighting – and losing out to – his addiction, Brooks is photographed one night conducting a particularly grisly slaughter, by a “Mr. Smith” (Dane Cook), who blackmails Earl into taking him along on the next hunt. Meanwhile, Detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore) is in search of the mysterious “Thumbprint Killer” and believes Smith is harboring some undisclosed clues. As Brooks’ family life and his career of crime slowly converge, he must decide how best to permanently stop his literally murderous dependency.

Kevin Costner’s performance is nothing short of phenomenal. Cold and ruthless, yet also calm, collected, and grotesquely artistic, he calculates every possibility and scenario to plan the perfect attacks. Having a unique idiosyncrasy, the “Thumbprint Killer” (as he’s dubbed by the authorities) repositions the victim’s bodies into various poses after he slays them. And, of course, the major twist to this particular psychopath is the voice in his head, here played by a separate actor, who also musters an outstanding turn. William Hurt is Marshall, Earl’s darker, more malevolent alter ego or manipulative id, who instructs and advises him, especially when it comes to breaking the law. His role is used for both comic relief and to demonstrate Earl’s complex thought processes. The most innovative aspect of this split-personality concept is that Marshall exists solely in Earl’s mind. He can’t control Earl, he can’t physically interfere with anything, and Earl is constantly aware of him. Plus, he’s not the traditional doppelgänger played by the same actor – he’s an entirely different manifestation, almost like a psychiatrist giving advice from a comfy chair.

Much like the demon and angel that sit on either shoulder of the lead character in countless cartoons and comedies, Marshall influences Earl’s decisions, but is unable to interact with reality. And yet, Mr. Brooks enjoys killing enough that even without this mental passenger, it’s likely he would still be a serial killer – a notion that conflicts with the popular Jekyll/Hyde dichotomy. Here, both personalities lean toward psychotic dispositions, not diametrically opposing perspectives. And Marshall’s distinct personality is particularly uncommon in cinema, since he’s something of a likeminded coconspirator, not a guiding conscience.

Demi Moore’s Tracy Atwood, who has been investigating the Thumbprint Killer for years, is easily the weakest link in the film. Her character routinely takes a backseat even to Hurt’s intermittent alter ego – who is often literally in the backseat during car rides to homicidal rendezvouses. At several points in the film, she dons the armor of a serious action star, which feels sorely misplaced, notably when the picture focuses on its character study of a self-destructive, eccentrically disturbed individual rather than suspenseful choreography. Her subplot could have been cut entirely and it would have made little difference.

Dane Cook’s appearance in a serious thriller could have also been a worrisome element, but he pulls off his part without a hitch. And the reason he’s so adequate is once again thanks to a twist. A hilariously odd take on the traditional blackmailer, Smith doesn’t want money; instead, he wants to accompany Brooks on his next murder, like a voyeuristic stalker and a vicarious criminal. He’s a comparably unorthodox accomplice. And to round out all the morbidness, director Bruce Evans throws in an ample helping of comedy into the inevitable violence, presumably to break up the occasional, incredibly graphic bloodshed. Brooks is ultimately even scarier because his family life – or the facade behind which he hides – is so incredibly normal. He even begs for forgiveness and prays to God to interrupt his never-ending lust for killing, generating additional contrasts to the conventional formula. Still, he’s a bad guy, even if audiences are persuaded to rally behind him as an antihero. In many ways, he’s reminiscent of the cleverness of Hannibal Lecter – a villain so brilliantly crafty that it’s difficult not to outwardly hope he gets away with it all.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10