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Mr. Brooks

A movie directed by Bruce A. Evans

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Somewhat intriguing twist on the serial killer theme, but far too many coincidences for it all to work

  • Dec 13, 2008
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 he simply appears distracted.

Probably the best thing about this film is the brilliant casting of William Hurt as Kevin Costner's alter-ego. Costner has been criticized for only playing variations on the same part in all his films: handsome, charming, pleasant but giving off the impression that he's not saying all he thinks, that there is a brooding undercurrent. In some roles he plays up the charm and in others the brooding undercurrent -- here, it seems, William Hurt gives voice to the brooding and dark and sly hidden persona underneath all of the charm. He is also charming, but much more sinister -- an ideal counterpart to Costner's screen persona. One important touch on the part of the filmmakers was to make clear that it was Costner as Brooks who ultimately made all the decisions and committed all of the murders -- his alterego could suggest, encourage, even beg, but he himself was conscious of and took responsibility for all of his crimes.

So far this makes for an interesting twist on the serial killer theme that has become a staple of Hollywood film. It establishes clearly the internal conflict and allows the audience (at least the non sociopaths among us) to achieve the necessary partial identification with the main character -- since he hates what he sometimes allows himself to do, when he yields to the urgings of his alter ego. The complication arises when he messes up and someone sees him -- but instead of wanting to bribe him, "Mr. Smith" (played convincingly by comedian Dane Cook) wants in: he wants to go along for the next time. This is another intriguing twist, so at least this far the movie sounded like something different and interesting -- I'm not generally a huge fan of serial killer films but at least this one seemed unique. There is a bit of a reflexive moment here: "Mr. Smith," like us, was watching the crime through a window just as we are watching on the screen, he was entertained and wanted more, just as, presumably, we are being entertained and will wait eagerly for more action and violence.

The real trouble is that the filmmakers try to build a series of subplots into the story that are increasingly implausible. There is the cop (a badly miscast Demi Moore) who is investigating the "thumbprint murderer" (Mr. Brooks), whose first husband was killed, who is extremely wealthy but feels the need to be a cop, is now involved in a painful divorce with a former male model who apparently married her for her money, is being hunted down by another serial killer who she had put in prison but recently escaped, ... it all starts to seem a bit hokey. Then add in the story of the daughter, who has recently withdrawn from college, and is apparently pregnant, and is being questioned in relation to a brutal homicide with an ax ... it started to feel like some kind of absurd parody of serial killer film plots, but it was all played so seriously that I think the absurdity was unintended. At times the film really seemed to switch genres -- as when the cop (Moore) gets into an intense, MTV style shootout with a couple of killers in a hall, with flickering flourescent lights creating a strobe-like effect.

This is not without some entertainment value, and has a few things about it that are interesting from the standpoint of thinking about film, but I can't say I found much else to be valuable here. It wants to be a film suggesting that all of us have a darker side, that at the very least all of us get turned on or entertained a bit by violence or we wouldn't be watching this film. I don't know, though -- I'm not sure I find that message enlightening or convincing (and how many times have filmmakers tried to "enlighten" their audience about their own complicity in the subject matter of the film -- as if the filmmaker were seeking to exculpate themselves for making a film about violence by saying to the audience: "isn't this what you want to see? It's not my fault then that I make it for you."). I picked this film up because I like the doppelganger theme, and am generally intrigued by William Hurt's performances and thought the pairing of William Hurt and Kevin Costner would be interesting -- not because I enjoy watching violence (not to say that I am generally put off by it either -- it just has to work in the context of the film). It is to the filmmaker's credit that they don't push too hard on the "everybody has a dark side" theme -- at least there is no condemnatory monologue or anything like that. A few intriguing performances, and a few interesting twists, but as a whole I just don't think it all worked together in a satisfying way.

Nate Andersen

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More Mr. Brooks reviews
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 . December 16, 2007
"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 …
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
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #74
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … 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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