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June 1, 2007 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | June 1, 2007 |

Mr. Brooks would have us believe that its title character, played by the woefully lethargic Kevin Costner, is “addicted to killing;” that, like Michael Rooker’s Henry of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, it’s an undeniable part of his being, something he can’t control. But Brooks is no madman, at least not a haphazard one; he stalks random victims for days at a time, stealthily breaks into their homes, shoots them, and then carefully erases every possible trace of evidence. It’s a somewhat troubled premise, but one that still could’ve been sold with either charismatic actors or a solid script. No such luck. For one thing, Costner, still parading around as a self-parody of his Robin Hood torpor, can’t convincingly play a killer - his attempts at sangfroid all look like boredom or even catatonia, almost as if he wolfed down two Xanax horse pills before his scenes.

Likewise, writer/director Bruce Evans can’t sculpt a believable story to frame Costner. Hell, even a non-ridiculous one would have been nice! But it’s almost as if Evans tries to cram three separate but equally ludicrous films into one. All three are only intermittently engaging, but are fully boring and sheepishly acted.

The first plot strand is merely Mr. Brooks and his quasi-struggle with his “killer urges” which are, for some reason, personified as a rival personality named Marshall (and played by William Hurt). Other than this Marshall aspect, Brooks is an upstanding business mogul and philanthropist who muddles through his boring life until his troubled daughter (Danielle Panabaker) drops out of college and shows up at home. To top it off, Brooks suspects that his pretty-in-pink offspring may have similarly murderous drives. Serial killer-ism is apparently genetic. Who knew?

A second strand emerges after Brooks’ latest killings, wherein he barged in on a pair of boinking socialites only to be witnessed and photographed by a wanking voyeur (Dane Cook). Cook’s character, who is never named, tries to blackmail Brooks so that - get this - Brooks will instruct him in the delicate art of murder! I’ve already said that Costner is unconvincing as an Everyman who moonlights as a murderer, but Dane Cook is positively embarrassing in the same role. As we’ve already seen, Dane Cook has long worn out his welcome in the media, but this film role actually comes dangerously close to meta-awareness - he plays a blundering nincompoop either so well or so badly that it’s hard to actually distinguish a performance in there.

Then there’s the cop on Brooks’ tail (Demi Moore, who evidently still exists), who occupies a subplot that, but for a few preposterous leaps in continuity near the end, has little if anything to do with either Brooks or his bumbling new sidekick. She’s on the trail of Brooks’ killing spree, but she’s also in the middle of a divorce from her husband (an utter dickbag), and she’s being stalked by another criminal she put away and … what the fuck does this have to do with anything? The writing in Mr. Brooks was so bad it became almost weird.

The movie is a long, enervating journey with monstrous, laughable plot holes - a delightful yarn about “sophisticated” men who stalk and kill people not because they’re really psychopaths, but simply for shits and giggles, and it’s acted out with such utter drowsiness that it can’t even become comedy. Only Hurt comes close to selling his role as a deranged alter-ego - he hisses and absolutely chews the scenery with relish, probably because he’s the only one here who recognizes a farce when he sees it.

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.


Mr. Brooks / Phillip Stephens

Film | June 1, 2007 |


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