Tuesday, June 04, 2013

30 Days of Nightmares #4: MR. BROOKS (2006)

The Story: A serial killer (who prefers the term "murder addict") get blackmailed into taking on a protege, while a world-weary female detective tracks them both.

Expectations: When this film came out, I remember it got some buzz because Kevin Costner was playing a villain... I've never been a big Kevin Costner fan, so I didn't bother.  Then, a few months ago, I was very impressed with his performance in HATFIELDS & MCCOYS.  Clearly this is no longer the baby-faced, happy-go-lucky romantic lead; the older Kevin Costner has an air of time-tested authority and gravitas.  So I decided to take a chance on MR. BROOKS.

Reaction: There is half of a very worthwhile movie here -- the half revolving around the everyday life of "Mr. Brooks."  Costner is completely believable as a respectable businessman, a loving husband and father, a conflicted addict, and (most importantly) a cold-blooded killer.  That's not to say there aren't still some problems with his character.  I'm not sure why the hell he's always talking to an invisible friend who looks like William Hurt.  I kept waiting for some kind of explanation -- maybe this is his dead father?  But the movie never seemed to offer an explanation, and I was left wishing that this thread had been eliminated to make for a tighter film.

Basically it seems like the filmmakers weren't quite sure what kind of story they wanted to tell.  Instead of making choices, he spends a lot of time juggling different narratives.  The second main story, which plays as a counterpoint to the criminal exploits of Mr. Brooks, is about a supremely rich but somehow world-weary detective played by Demi Moore.  To put it bluntly: This narrative thread is just plain annoying.  Moore spends the first half of the film doing a gum-chomping impersonation of William Petersen in MANHUNTER (there are two sequences stolen right out of that earlier film: one where she profiles a murder scene, and another where she mistakenly anticipates being attacked by a jogger).  When she's not griping about her slimy ex-(trophy)husband, she's evading an escaped serial killer (NOT Mr. Brooks...).  Her story eventually culminates with a laugh-out-loud funny shootout between her and the other serial killer.   It's funny not because it's poorly executed -- the music and editing are solid -- but because it seems to belong to a completely different movie.  CHARLIE'S ANGELS, maybe.

I can only assume that the filmmakers were trying to emulate MANHUNTER / SILENCE OF THE LAMBS / HANNIBAL.  Unfortunately, Demi Moore can't hold a candle to Jodie Foster, or even Julianne Moore.  She has no trouble playing tough, but she doesn't allow herself to be vulnerabile.  For example: There's a sequence in which she gets thrown out of a fast-moving van and lands back-first on the windshield of a taxi cab.... The window shatters on impact, and the angle of the hit immediatley made me assume that she had damaged her spine.  In the very next scene, she's sitting in the ER while a nurse stitches up a tiny cut on her scalp, all the while she's yammering to her boss about "getting back out there."  It doesn't look like the ordeal has even smeared her makeup.  Silliness like that just sucks me right out of the movie... which is a shame because, as I said, there's a good movie buried in this snakepit of story threads.  I would have loved to have seen more of the dynamic between Mr. Brooks, his wife (played by Marg Helgenberger) and his obviously disturbed daughter (Danielle Panabaker).  Unfortunately those relationships are buried beneath a lot of convoluted crap.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: I don't want to give it away, but there's sequence near the end of the film -- involving scissors -- that really packs a wallop.  I should have seen it coming, but didn't.

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