‘Mr. Brooks’ movie review: Kevin Costner kills in campy thriller

NOW STREAMING ON:

An odd mix of psychological thriller and camp satire, Bruce A. Evans´ Mr. Brooks wanders all over the map but succeeds greatly whenever Kevin Costner and William Hurt – playing separate personalities of the titular character – are sharing the screen.

Earl Brooks (Costner) has just been named Man of the Year by the Portland Chamber of Commerce; somehow this resurrects a long-dormant split-personality (personified by William Hurt), who urges Brooks to commit random murders.

You see, Brooks is a serial killer known as the “Fingerprint Killer”, and he´s about to return. The film could have stopped there with plot and I would have been satisfied, but no, we have over-writing at its worst here, and it´s on prominent display.

Thrown into the mix: a photographer (Dane Cook) who witnesses Brooks commit a murder and decides he, too, wants to be a killer; Brooks´ daughter Jane, who may have the serial killer gene, and Earl´s attempts to cover up her tracks; and three (!) separate storylines involving a cop (Demi Moore), who is chasing Brooks, being chased by another recently-escaped serial killer, and going through a messy divorce.

This could have been material for a campy Serial Mom-esque comedy but not really the dark psychological thriller Evans seems to want it be; the story threads are too out there, there are too many of them, and none of them are handled with enough care.

Yet, when the film works, it works: the banter between Costner and Hurt is often beautiful. But almost every scene with Moore´s underwritten character – whether she´s flying through the air or spraying baddies with bullets – causes a jarring tonal shift that´s difficult to recover from.

I´m on the fence here; I recognize this is a bad film, yet I enjoyed watching it (even when it doesn´t work, it provides unintentional comedy), and it represents welcome counter-programming to the typical Hollywood fare.

Ultimately, the direction simply is not up to task; while always watchable, the film is never as compelling as it should be, it lacks a consistent visual style, and (as other reviewers have noted) the tone is all over the place. In the hands of a more talented director, Mr. Brooks could have been a blast.

Mr. Brooks

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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