November 24, 2007

DVD Review: Mr. Brooks

As I watched this for the first time since I saw it on the big screen, I had pretty much the same reaction. However, this time around I found that I was a bit bored by it. I cannot explain why, I mean, it isn't that good of a movie, but the concept is interesting. Still, the cast is not all that it could have been. Honestly, in my opinion Kevin Costner's filmography is spotty, he has worked on some very good films, but then there are entries like The Postman. I have never been a big fan of Demi Moore, and Dane Cook in a thriller, please? Pretty early in his movie career to be trying his hand at drama, methinks he needs to work on his comedy first. Back to the concept, I like the idea of a serial killer with multiple personalities, or at least with a separate and fully realized "voice" in their head. Lots of possibilities.

I am sure all of you have had this experience at one time or another. You watch a movie, you recognize it as being pretty bad, but you find yourself enjoying every moment. Usually, they are the kind of movies that you find on late at night on some random cable station. You watch it and are amazed that you are smiling at it, enjoying every odd minute of it. You marvel at the concept, which may be interesting, watch as scenes whither and die no matter how hard they try. When it ends, you think, "Wow, that was kind of bad, but damn if it wasn't fun." Mr. Brooks is that kind of movie.

The story follows Earl Brooks (Costner), a successful businessman and loving family man. On the surface, Earl seems like a great guy, but this great guy has a dark side that he has successfully hid from his loved ones, and everyone else. You see, Brooks has a voice in his head who loves to kill. The voice, embodied by William Hurt, is named Marshall. He and Earl will go out and kill every once in awhile. However, Earl doesn't want to do it anymore; he even goes to AA meetings to help control himself. Marshall isn't quite ready to give up, and the two head out on one final kill. Things go a bit sideways as Earl is photographed on his latest evening of fun. A man who calls himself Mr. Smith (Dane Cook) approaches Mr. Brooks with an offer. In return for not going to the police, he wants to go with him on his next kill — he wants to get a taste of the blood rush of murdering another human being. An odd request to be sure, but one that seems to work out for our killer of the title.

Now, that sounds like it would be a pretty cool movie on its own, but that is not all that we get. We get the added bonus of a detective (played by Demi Moore) hot on the trail of our killer. Okay, that doesn't sound so bad, but that isn't all. The detective is also going through a nasty divorce and is being pursued herself, by another serial killer. If that isn't enough, Mr. Brooks' daughter, Jane (Danielle Panabaker, who I thought was Amber Tamblyn for the whole movie), is back from college, and she has a secret of her own.

Okay, now I really like the Jekyll and Hyde elements of the story. Costner and Hurt work wonderfully together, Hurt being the bloodthirsty heavy of the relationship, not to mention the brains. Watching them go to work together is a thing of beauty. Hurt goads Costner, Costner tries to resist, repeat. Another good thing about the movie is, believe it or not, Dane Cook. He is not great, and I am still a little surprised at how early he is trying the whole drama thing. Still, his role as the wannabe killer is pretty good, I was convinced by his earnestness.

I like how it plays out — however, that falls under the guilty pleasure type of like. The story goes through so many convenient coincidences and acrobatic moves to make everything work. Everything is made to tie together with a nice little bow, but it felt so manufactured, instead of feeling organic. The other killer is tied into the plot, indirectly, the divorce is tied into the plot. That brings up another point; the world of Mr. Brooks is not unlike the comic book world of a superhero, what with Costner called the Thumbprint Killer and the other guy called Hangman; all we need now is a Super-something to do battle with them.

As for the bad, there are issues with day turning into night, and vice versa, without rhyme or reason, and forget about scene continuity. The very beginning is a little awkward as the opening text indicates that the "hunger has returned to Mr. Brooks." It is inadequate shorthand exposition for the Brooks character. It seems to me that there could be some very interesting exposition for the character and his "head" person, far and beyond what is offered here.

Then there is pretty much every scene with Demi Moore. Each one grinds the story to a halt. I was amazed at how bad she was in this film, it was like she wasn't even trying. Pacing is also an issue, partially due to Moore's scenes, but also due to the Costner/Hurt interactions. Now they worked great together, but the way they play out, as if the other characters are unaware of these conversations, the method that is used is essentially no method at all, therefore the pacing just gets all out of whack. Finally, there is the ending. No, I won't give it away, I just wish it had the courage of its convictions and didn't bail out at the last moment — that would have been great.

As unlikely as it is that I was actually entertained by this, I was, yet I also could not help but think that this could have been so much better. The whole voice/person in the head thing was great. I would have loved a deeper examination of how that came to be, where he came from, what led him to give birth to this monstrosity. There are also threads that hint at bigger things in his family that would have been great psychological horror/thriller fodder. If only they had cut down Demi Moore's role, not eliminate the detective on the prowl, but all of this other killer and divorce stuff, it was unnecessary and forced the screenplay through hoops to make everything fit.

Audio/Video. The copy I have is a burned pre-release copy (I know this has been out for a few weeks, I'm just a bit behind). This being the case, I cannot speak to how well the technical quality of this disk compares to the production copy you will find on the shelves. It didn't look all that bad, but I do not wish to mislead.

Extras. There are a few extras included on this release:
  • Commentary. The track features Bruce A . Evans and Raynold Gideon. The talk about the writing process and the how they got the script to Costner. They also speak about the shooting of scenes and general making of stuff. There is some good information, but it is also a lot backslapping.
  • Deleted Scenes. This includes an alternate opening which features photographs of the posed bodies of past Brooks victims. Outside of that, nothing groundbreaking is contained here. Most of the scenes involve Demi Moore's character. (6.5 minutes)
  • The Birth of a Serial Killer: The Writing of Mr. Brooks. Interviews with the writers of the film on why they wanted to write this and how this came to be the story they wrote. (7 minutes)
  • On the Set of Mr. Brooks. Plenty of behinds the scene footage and interviews with cast and crew. (9.5 minutes)
  • Murder on their Minds: Mr. Brooks, Marshall, and Mr. Smith. This featurette focuses on the creation and use of the personalities and their interaction. Includes interviews with cast and crew (9 minutes)
  • Theatrical Trailer.

Bottomline. Definitely worth a rental. It is a story that looks better on paper than it does upon execution. Despite the serious issues, I still found myself getting some late night cable entertainment of it.

Mildly Recommended.


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