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Mr. Brooks

A movie directed by Bruce A. Evans

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  • Dec 16, 2007
  • by
"If I thought my reply were meant for one/ who ever could return into the world,/ This flame would stir no more; and yet, since none/--if what I hear is true--ever returned/ Alive from this abyss, then without fear/Of facing infamy, I answer you" Dante's `Inferno' Canto 27, lines 61-66

(2 1/2 *'s) Enjoying `Mr. Brooks' in many ways has to do with your take on Mr. Brooks (Kevin Costner). At first conversing with his alter ego, Marshall (William Hurt), one wonders if he has flipped out or made a major pact with the devil. One thing's for sure, it doesn't take us long to find out the answer. Mr. Brooks is in many ways a respectable man. He is loved by his wife, Emma (Marg Hegenberger), and he truly loves his spoiled, wayward daughter who has mysteriously dropped out of her first semester of college. His inner life and his outward appearance are like a case study from Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's book, 'People of the Lie'.

We know he is having internal conversations with his alter ego, for on the way home from an awards' dinner done in his honor, Brooks is talking to Marshall about his next murder. Marshall is in the back seat while his wife is in the front seat, oblivious to anything but changes in her husband's facial expressions. In another scene Brooks and Marshall are sitting side by side and both turn their heads in synch, like they're one.

By outward appearances, the only indication of anything amiss in his life are his frequent AA meetings, which vex Marshall, but please him with each new resolution of reform. Much like the pact made in 'Ghost Rider,' Brooks seems uncomfortable with his real addiction, which in this case is to murder. Oddly, as a homicidal addict he has enough composure to keep himself from leaving any traces he might leave behind. Going for a second dessert after the awards dinner, Mr. Brooks spots a couple at a dancing school on a loft within sight of the ice cream parlor. They will be his next victims. At home he has a wardrobe room that keeps all the means to keep all traces of his crime behind. Later, catching the couple at their apartment having sex, he coldly announces himself and shoots them dead.

As his first murder in two years, things start to stick. Detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore) has been on his trail for years. She is no closer to finding "The Thumbprint Murderer" than before. Brooks is scot-free until a man, Bafford (Dane Cook), shows up at work delivering pictures of Brooks at the scene of the crime. Bafford is a voyeur, one who enjoyed the open curtain bedroom scenes of the deceased and found an extra thrill with their demise. Bafford (bka "Mr. Smith") offers Brooks a proposition: In exchange for the camera's memory and all the pictures, Brooks will allow him to tag along his next homicide.

Bafford causes great problems for Brooks who argues against Marshall's persistent wishes. He's on the wagon and has great difficulty fulfilling Bafford's part of the bargain. For his part, Marshall only offers murder as a constant solution every time Brooks' gets closer to suspicion. Meanwhile, Atwood has more than serial murderers on the loose: She's distracted by a harassing ex-husband who is trying to extract inheritance money from her in a divorce settlement. How these plot lines come together, including the daughter's, is both amazing and unbelievable at the same time.

Watching `Mr. Brooks' I kept thinking that most films would have been made from Detective Tracy Atwood's point-of-view. She'd be the protagonist, and we'd see her go through corridors with a gun in her hand. Maybe that film was done with Jodi Foster and Anthony Hopkins, and it was called `Silence of the Lambs,' a brilliant movie.

Why see `Mr. Brooks`? As a twisty plot movie, it offers a couple new ideas. Is it plausible? Probably not, but there's enough suspension of disbelief to find it reasonably entertaining. Yet, there are too many plot points that neatly intersect together. Just like the classic Faustus story of a man making a blood pack with the devil, is it a modern fable? Possibly, but that's not the focus or import of the movie. Is it a fascinating portrait of a man gone wrong? I was intrigued, but only for so long. Mr. Brooks brings some mystery, but I was absorbed and fascinated about him until the end. Then, I was disappointed. He loves his daughter; he wants to go straight; but in the end he doesn't care anything more than about his reputation. (See Dante quote at the beginning of the review.) It's understandable that Mr. Brooks is conflicted. He couldn't be anything less, but when he can't decide what's most important hiding his reputation from his family or never receiving proper recognition from the detectives, we start to lose interest. Okay, so there's the "banality of evil" presented, but realism does not always a good movie make. There's something about the movie that lacks tension and cohesiveness. Almost entirely devoid of sympathy, we do end up caring about Detective Atwood. As an arcade, almost every picture I can think of is better developed.

As talented as William Hurt is, he never brings the script home the way 'Danny Darko' did. Not his fault. This voyeur ride isn't as entertaining (much less suspenseful) as 'Disturbia'. After being on the edge of my seat with fascination, 'Mr. Brooks' bored me, and a comparison with the relationship of a Faustian figure and the Devil in a more effective movie like 'Angel Heart' with Mickey Rourke and Robert DeNiro reminded me why.

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More Mr. Brooks reviews
review by . December 13, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Mr. Brooks has a disease: he is addicted to murder. He tries to treat himself by going to AA meetings and prayer, but eventually he will give in. His alter-ego, played quite well by William Hurt, is the side of him that he doesn't like to let out. The chemistry between his two selves works well -- and the filmmakers do a good job allowing his conversations with his other self to integrate seemlessly into the action, so that he can think out loud in the presence of others and not be heard. To others …
review by . October 16, 2008
Pros: interplay between Hurt & Costner     Cons: ...     The Bottom Line:   "To bow out at the end   With a dignity only   A murder can bring   With sweet violation   That versatile thing"  ~The Copper Temple Clause           Mr. Brooks was a delightful little romp, quite bizarre, into the life of Earl Brooks. Outwardly he is a successful businessman. …
review by . December 30, 2007
Two hours of non-stop anxiety . . . that pretty much sums up Bruce Evan's psychological jaunt, "Mr. Brooks" starring Kevin Costner in the title role. Earl Brooks has just been named businessman of the year. The owner of a carton manufacturing firm, he lives quite the life; married to the more than attractive Marg Helgenberger with a fine Portland, Oregon home, and a cutsey-tootsey college aged daughter who wants nothing but to quit school and get down to business, following in her father's illustrious …
review by . October 25, 2007
MR. BROOKS is a surprisingly good film, one that from the response of critics and audiences at the time of the theatrical release last Spring might make the casual viewer pass by the DVD. But step into this strange world of the successful, philanthropic, loving husband and father Mr. Brooks and discover one of the more clever twists on the themes of addiction and serial killings, courtesy of a smart script by writer/director Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon.     Earl Brooks …
About the reviewer
John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #100
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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Kevin Costner as a warped serial killer, a pillar of the community whose dark side is embodied by an on-screen William Hurt? You have to admit, it sounds intriguing, right?Mr. Brooksis the vehicle for this unsavory story, and it turns out to be a lot less kicky than it sounds. Mr. Brooks is a Portland, Oregon tycoon and philanthropist whose "addiction" to murder is suddenly re-surfacing--with plenty of help from his sneering alter ego, who generally sits in the back of the car, goading Mr. Brooks on. (The other characters can't see William Hurt in all this, of course.) The unbelievably convoluted plot has Mr. Brooks confronted by a blackmailer (comedian Dane Cook) who has a surprising twist on things, and trailed by a cop (Demi Moore) who comes equipped with her own set of professional and marital woes. As if that weren't enough, when Brooks's daughter (Danielle Panabaker) comes home, it becomes clear that some traits run in the family.

The scenes with Costner and Hurt are the best stuff in the film, even if director Bruce Evans can't figure out how to play fair visualizing their presence to others. But the script, which among other whoppers make Demi Moore's character a millionaire, is just too unbelievable to stomach. If William Hurt's character provided a running commentary for this movie, there wouldn't be anything left after he got through mocking it. --Robert Horton

The Cast of Mr. Brooks
Kevin Costner

William Hurt

Demi Moore

Dane Cook

Marg Helgenberger


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Director: Bruce A. Evans
DVD Release Date: October 23, 2007
Runtime: 120 minutes
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
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