Review of Mr. Brooks


Movie Review: "Mr. Brooks"

-- Rating: R (strong bloody violence, some graphic content, nudity, and language)
Length: 120 minutes
Release Date: June 1, 2007
Directed by: Bruce A. Evans
Genre: Crime, Drama, and Mystery

"Mr. Brooks" is a psychological drama about an ordinary man who has a secret life as a serial killer. Starring Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, and William Hurt, the movie is a modern interpretation of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." "Mr. Brooks" is certain to entertain Costner fans as well as anyone who enjoys a suspenseful and darkly comedic movie.

The story opens on Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner), a successful businessman and respected member of his community. On the surface, Brooks has all of the trappings of an ideal life: a loving wife, a thriving company, a beautiful daughter, and the admiration of his local government officials. He contributes so much to his community that the local chamber of commerce has even named him "Man of the Year."

Appearances can be deceiving, however, and Brooks leads a secret second life. When no one is looking, he becomes his evil alter ego Marshall (William Hurt), a serial killer who is addicted to murder. When Marshall appears, Brooks gives in to his inner blood lust. He targets young people in love, murders them, and positions their corpses in lewd poses. Once the scene is cleared of all evidence, he uses the corpses' bodies to leave behind a bloody thumbprint as a signature. He has claimed so many victims that the media has dubbed him the "Thumbprint Killer."

Brooks doesn't realize that he is not the only serial killer in his community. Another would-be murderer, Mr. Smith (Dane Cook), catches Brooks in the act and uses the evidence as blackmail-he wants to join the killing spree. At the same time, a newly freed killer, Thornton Meeks (Matt Schulze), wants revenge on police detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore), who is investigating Brooks' murders. And, in an unexpected twist, Brooks learns that serial killing runs in the family-his own daughter, Jane (Danielle Panabaker) turns out to share his taste for murder.

Kevin Costner gives a remarkably skilled performance as Earl Brooks. He handles his character's conflicting emotions well, conveying both distaste and enjoyment of the act of killing. Costner, who is often cast in roles that capitalize on his wholesome, good-guy personality, tackles his character's evil side with relish. Viewers can sense his enjoyment at branching out into a new acting challenge, and that energy adds depth and dimension to his role. As the devilish Marshall, William Hurt makes the ideal counterpart to Costner's innate goodness. Hurt is delightfully wicked and surprisingly likable despite the outrageously evil acts he proposes.

Together, Costner and Hurt make the perfect team. They are an ideal balance of good and evil. The two actors operate seamlessly together, showing the balanced give-and-take of a comedy team. By allowing Brooks' murderous side to be portrayed in another person, director Bruce A. Evans allows audience members to see the character as a whole. Rather than portraying the killer as an evil, one-sided monster, viewers can see his good side and appreciate his conflicting urges.

The supporting cast members give strong, memorable performances that set the stage for Costner and Hurt. Danielle Panabaker is believable as Brooks' sweet, seemingly innocent daughter, and Marg Helgenberger is entertaining as his wife Emma. Comedian Dane Cook takes a surprising turn in acting as a photographer and serial killer wannabe. Fans of his stand-up comedy will enjoy the chance to see him in a darker, more sinister role. As "the Hangman," Matt Schulze is appropriately evil. Demi Moore, who plays the detective who is after the group of murderers, gives a surprisingly understated performance. Her acting choices are subtle and almost emotionless, particularly given her dramatic back story in the film.

Director Bruce A. Evans, who co-wrote "Mr. Brooks" with Raynold Gideon, chose an ambitious and far-reaching plot line for the film. Somehow, despite the absurdity of the storyline-in particular, the subplot about the serial-killer daughter-the movie works well. The Costner-Hurt team and Dane Cook's comedic talents add a sense of lightness to a movie that deals with decidedly dark subject matter. As a result, the film is likeable and entertaining even for people who are not horror fans.

Overall, "Mr. Brooks" stands out from the pack as a horror movie with heart. Viewers will enjoy the chance to see all sides of a serial killer's personality and may embrace the opportunity to ponder the choices and personality traits that can lead someone into a life of crime. Although it is not suitable for children, this film is an entertaining, thought-provoking option for adults.

Rating: 4 out of 5