Monday, June 18, 2007

Mr. Brooks: Don't Go There

"Mr. Brooks" is a new feature film starring Kevin Costner, Demi Moore and William Hurt. I'd read some very bad reviews of this film and some mediocre reviews of this film before I went and saw it. I went, despite the bad reviews, because I've been a fan of the writers' earlier works. It certainly wasn't the worst film I've ever seen ("Manos: The Hands of Fate" still holds that honor), but I'd put it somewhere between the mediocre and bad ranges.

Kevin Costner plays Earl Brooks, an entrepreneur/owner of a box company in Portland, Oregon. He's a family man and a good citizen who seemingly has it all: A thriving business, a loving wife (Marg Helgenberger), a daughter (Danielle Panabaker) in college, and a spacious home. But Mr. Brooks also has an addiction, a dark and unnatural addiction. While by day he is seemingly the perfect man, by night he is the Thumbprint Killer, a ruthless serial killer who commits thrill killings that seem to be perfect crimes. The script fails to tell, however, of any reason for his compulsive, destructive behavior.

Although Mr. Brooks has kept his urge to kill under control for over two years with the aid of regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings (in his introductions, he states, "I'm an addict"), on the night he is named the local Chamber of Commerce's Man of the Year, his demons, manifested as a gleefully sadistic alter ego named Marshall (William Hurt), take hold. After the awards dinner, he takes his wife home and, under cover of working on his pottery hobby in the small shack that houses his kiln, heads out to commit a brutal double murder.

This time, however, Mr. Brooks makes a critical mistake, and is photographed by Mr. Smith (Dane Cook), the victims' peeping Tom neighbor. Recognized as a local celebrity by the disturbed Mr. Smith, Mr. Brooks finds himself blackmailed into committing another murder, with Mr. Smith as a tagalong. That's right. Mr. Smith has no interest in turning Mr. Brooks over to the police. He just wants to accompany him on the commission his next homicide. The serial killer has his own stalker. Mr. Brooks also faces trouble on the home front, as his daughter arrives home unexpectedly from college, and evidence soon surfaces that she may have a murder investigation of her own to face.

A quirky yet efficient millionaire heiress detective (Demi Moore) is assigned to the Thumbprint Killer case and zeroes in on Mr. Smith as a potential witness. The detective is trying to put her second divorce behind her, but she's not presenting the kindof settlement offer desired by her husband. Aside from the Thumbprint Killer, she's also looking for a revenge-bound convict she helped put in jail that just escaped from prison.

While the acting performances in this film were fine, the story was lacking. I'd expected a lot more from Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon. They wrote "Stand By Me" and "Starman." At first I suspected the final draft of the script may have been completely rewritten by the director, losing some of the writers' intent in the process. Then I saw that Bruce A. Evans directed the picture. This story is detailed, but it never digs beneath the surface in search of motives or insight. I found only one memorable line in the film, uttered by Mr. Brooks: "If I were here to kill you, you'd already by dead." There were some interesting plot twists in the third act, setting itself up for at least a guess-it-wasn't-so-bad ending. However, my hopes were quickly quashed by an ending with which I was unable to temporarily suspend disbelief. The script also left open the possibility of a sequel that I hope will never be made. If you simply must see this film, wait for it to come out on DVD.


Blogger Elizabeth Parker said...

Hmmm, I'm interested in this film because of the cast. Just have to love Dane Cook! :)

But I think I'll wait unti it comes out on HBO. I watch things on there that I wouldn't pay money to see at the theater.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Diana Celesky said...

Good call, Elizabeth. There were parts of this film that I liked, but the story just wasn't as tense and well-written as what I'd hoped. I felt Dane Cook and the other actors put out fine performances, although Costner was a bit uneven. I found the best parts of the first two acts to be the music. That's not a good sign for the story. I also noticed that just when I thought the pacing was a little slow, something would jump out at me to scare me. I like stories to do that, not the special effects. Please let me know your thoughts on the show after you see it. I have a feeling it won't be long before it's on the premium channels as I doubt it will be in theaters much longer.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

Great review, Diane. I doubt I'll watch it - I don't like serial killer movies in the first place. But you did an excellent job dissecting what worked and what didn't work in the plot. Are you a writer?

1:03 PM  
Blogger Diana Celesky said...

Thanks, Missy. Yes, I am considering going part-time with the glamorous, but unpaid blogmistress role and writing some books for a huge publishing conglomerate and some films for Paramount. However, I need to come up with a plan for escaping the duties of my thrill-a-minute day job. I've always thought it a crime that NY publishers and Hollywood producers never interviewed upcoming graduates at colleges. That could have saved us a few steps and got our writing careers in line a lot sooner. And should NY publishers and Hollywood producers actually visit any colleges, I obviously went to the wrong schools. Well, okay. I've known for some time that I went to the wrong schools. Maybe I need to pursue another degree at Columbia, Pepperdine, or UCLA . . . .

3:42 PM  

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