Directed by: Bruce A. Evans
Premise: Kevin Costner plays Earl Brooks, a respectable citizen who is also a serial killer known as the Thumb Print Killer. A curious amateur photographer (Dane Cook) catches him in the act and demands that Brooks show him how to commit murder. At the same time, a detective in a troubled marriage (Demi Moore) attempts to uncover the Thumb Print Killer’s identity.
What Works: Mr. Brooks features some very interesting characters and the film’s main serial killer is a more complex protagonist than many of these films often provide. The picture treats Brooks’ murderous impulses as an addiction that he takes no pleasure in but at the same time is powerless to resist. The relationship between Brooks and his daughter (Danielle Panabaker) is the most interesting portion of the film, as she mysteriously returns home from school and Brooks suspects that she has committed murder. The passing of the addiction from generation to generation is compelling and makes for an interesting storyline that would have been best at the center of the story. William Hurt stars as Marshall, Brooks’ imaginary alter-ego and he gives a performance that is just barely contained from going over the top, much like he did in A History of Violence. The moments between Brooks and Marshall shine with dark humor that charges the film with some much-needed originality.
What Doesn’t: The biggest problem with Mr. Brooks is that the story lacks focus. The film juggles too many different pieces and as a result it does not do any of them justice. The story between Brooks and his daughter is interesting but does not really develop into anything. Brooks’ relationship with his wife never has any strain and little is done to contrast between the character’s identity as a respectable citizen and his predatory behavior. The story of Demi Moore’s character is underwritten and although her marital problems provide the story with some new angles, it feels terribly clichéd from other police procedurals. As the film goes on it gets sillier as characters show up in places for no particular reason and Moore’s character engages in a Matrix-style action sequence with one of the many serial killers populating the film.
Bottom Line: Mr. Brooks is a mishmash of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Manhunter, A History of Violence, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Despite some interesting elements, the film is troubled by too many subplots and none are done particularly well.
Episode: #143 (June 3, 2007)