Saturday 21 January 2017

Movie Review: Mr. Brooks (2007)

An intriguing psychological crime thriller, Mr. Brooks has layered depth but also too much plot and some questionable character behaviours.

In Portland, Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) is a seemingly respectable businessman, married to Emma (Marg Helgenberger) and with a daughter Jane (Danielle Panabaker) in college. But Brooks is actually a methodical serial murderer known as the thumbprint killer. His evil alter ego Marshall (William Hurt) has just reappeared, egging Brooks to resume the killings. Brooks yields and goes ahead with the double murder of a young couple, but their neighbour Graves Baffert (Dane Cook) captures photographs of the crime in progress. Baffert adopts the name Mr. Smith and blackmails Brooks into accepting him as a protégé.

Detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore) is tough as nails, independently wealthy, dealing with a nasty divorce and intent on investigating Brooks' latest crime scene all while evading a violent recently released criminal bent on revenge. As Tracy closes in on Brooks, Mr. Smith demands to be involved in the next killing, while Brooks' daughter Jane starts to reveal shocking secrets of her own.

Directed by Bruce A. Evans, Mr. Brooks delves into the mind of a killer battling against his own demons. The interaction between good and evil within one damaged intellect is cleverly personified by the ominously laid back presence of Marshall, a character only seen and heard by Brooks but instrumental to his being. The film is taut and dark despite suffering from sprawl.

Mr. Brooks packs in enough plot for about three movies. Tracy's divorce sub-plot and her stalking by a maniacal murderer provide plenty of distractions, while over at the Brooks household, daughter Jane comes up with some really big surprises every time she appears on screen. It's a potpourri of evil intentions, all justified and at least loosely connected to the central emotional themes. Evans maintains decent control and Mr. Brooks can never be accused of standing still or shortchanging the main characters.

But the film's core drama is the tension in Brooks' head as personified by Marshall, and the scenes between Costner and Hurt are a class above everything else going on in the film. The many side-quests are much more routine and start to get in the way. And unfortunately, the character of Mr. Smith is by far the weakest thing going on in Mr. Brooks. Despite the incriminating photographs, Mr. Smith's desire to participate in murder is less than convincing and he never comes close to being a match for the Brooks / Marshall combo. They always appear to be a couple of laps ahead of the hapless amateur photographer, depriving the film of tension.

Occasionally Mr. Brooks slips into unnecessarily gory violence, creating disharmony with the more welcome emphasis on psychological turmoil Brooks and Tracy are suffering through.

Kevin Costner and William Hurt are a joy to watch together, the two veterans smoothly playing off each other in the tight confines of the psyche. Demi Moore stays within herself and is all grim determination, while Dane Cook simply cannot keep up with the talent around him.

Mr. Brooks is a mind trip to the land of mental disturbia, cluttered by plenty of more conventional diversions.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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