Review: 'Mr. Brooks' a tepid and absurd thriller

What do you give the man who has everything? How about a streak of homicidal psychosis?

That’s what director Bruce Evans has bestowed on the otherwise wholesome Mr. Brooks (Kevin Costner), a wealthy, well-respected community leader who adores his family and runs his box factory with professionally muted enthusiasm. He’s the very definition of ordinary, until he reluctantly submits to his devilish id, personified in scene-stealing fashion by William Hurt.

Mr. Brooks, you see, is a serial killer who methodically stalks his randomly chosen victims until he’s ready to make his move. He tries to subdue his compulsion by attending meetings of addicts with less lethal urges, but even the serenity prayer can’t drown out the voices in his head. He is driven to kill, and it is only when he realizes that his thirst for blood has been genetically inherited by his daughter (Danielle Panabaker) that he resolves to stop.

There’s only one problem. A nosy photographer (Dane Cook), himself an aspiring killer, has caught Mr. Brooks in the act, and demands to learn the tricks of his macabre trade. Meanwhile, a sexy millionaire police officer (Demi Moore) has picked up his trail and doggedly pursues him… when she’s not busy negotiating the terms of her messy divorce and tracking down an escaped murderer (nicknamed “The Hangman”) who wants to remove her pretty head from her impeccably shaped torso.

Believe it or not, there is a decent thriller trapped somewhere inside “Mr. Brooks,” much as there is a very, very bad man trapped ever so tenuously inside his troubled mind.

The problem? See above. Rife with superfluous subplots that distract from the most interesting relationship in the movie — the one between the apparently strait-laced Costner and Hurt, who clearly relishes his turn as a diabolical (albeit imaginary) enabler — the film moves in too many directions at once, mixing the sinister with too much of the absurd.

That’s a shame, because the interplay between Costner and Hurt sparkles with razor-edged wit. Less effective are the inexpressive Moore and Cook, wildly miscast in a movie that fails to take advantage of his comic talents, dubious though they may be. Here, he pouts his way through a role that might have seemed vital in more capable hands, upstaged by the real actors at every turn.

Mr. Brooks **

Starring Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, Dane Cook, William Hurt, Marg Helgenberger

Written by Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon

Directed by Bruce Evans

Rated R

Running time: 2 hours


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