Do you know who your neighbor, friend, spouse -- even parent -- REALLY is? That’s the provocative question Mr. Brooks asks by the time this psychological thriller ends.
Kevin Costner stars as Mr. Brooks, an entrepreneur who owns a very successful box-making company. Life couldn’t be better for him. He has a beautiful home, a lovely wife and a grown daughter off to college. But then Marshall (William Hurt), his alter ego, appears. Marshall, invisible to everyone but Brooks, fuels his bizarre impulse to kill.
Serial killers such as the Green River killer, the Boston Strangler and the Zodiac killer have always been an enigma, especially when their targets are perfect strangers. Such is the case with Brooks, who has finally decided to stop listening to his alter ego and quit his murderous actions.
Hurt is such a fine actor he most surely could convince anyone that wrong is right, as Marshall does when Brooks sneaks into the home of a couple in the throes of making love. It’s almost amusing when each time he enters a place most think is safeguarded against intruders, Brooks calmly announces his presence with a simple “Hello.”
Before the first scream barely escapes a lip, Brooks’ carefully prepared long arm extends and he pulls the trigger from inside the plastic bag covering the gun. Why he does this is explained by Detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore) during one of her investigations.
Atwood is an aggressive cop who rarely lets her own personal life interfere with her work. However, at present, her life is a disaster. She’s in the middle of an ugly divorce from her husband who’s sleeping with his attorney. Plus a criminal determined to do her in is hounding her. All this tension results in an anger that’s present in everything Atwood does, but it never clouds her intelligence. She’s always one step ahead or one right behind in her pursuit of Brooks.
With Marshall being the only one to realize what Brooks is all about, things seem under control, but only until Brooks receives copies of photos showing him at the scene of a crime. He questions the photographer, Mr. Smith (Dane Cook), very calmly -- which shows the control Brooks has over his obsession. Does Smith want money? No, he wants to accompany Brooks on his next killing spree. Smith somehow sees Brooks as a hero and wishes to be in on what he perceives will be an ultimate thrill.
Brooks has no choice but to agree, even though Marshall warns against it. Brooks sets up a plan, but the night he and Smith set out and pick a random victim, Brooks calls it off, saying it doesn’t feel right. Several nights go by, and Smith becomes highly agitated with Brooks.
Back on the home front, Brooks’ daughter Jane (Danielle Panabaker) quits college and comes back home. Her mother, Emma (Marg Helgenberger) is upset and worried that Jane is distraught over a murder that happened at school. Things get more complicated when Jane announces she’s pregnant.
Although I had a little problem with the movie’s ending, screenwriters Bruce A. Evans (also the director), and Raymond Gideon have penned an intriguing story. First off, they brilliantly split their story into several emotional elements that at times are gruesome, intriguing and even funny. Also, the pretzel-like personality they developed for Brooks is expertly weaved and salted with just a hint of compassion to evoke an odd sort of understanding from the viewers.
Costner (Upside of Anger) fills his role very well, from the stone-cold looks of orgasmic joy after a killing, to the soft, prideful hugs of true concern and love for this daughter. He admits after reading the script that at times he was horrified by Brooks’ thoughts and deeds. “For the part of Brooks that is most depraved, I really had to use my imagination,” he said. “There was no other way to understand that kind of drive to kill other people.”
Hurt (A History of Violence) is equally impressive as Marshall. Few actors could deliver a character born in imagination yet one that must be seen by the viewers as well as by Brooks. At times Marshall is playful, conniving, and brainwashing controllable -- all with a charming smile.
Credit goes to Evans (Kuffs) and cinematographer John Lindley (Catch and Release) for their skill in filming every scene Marshall appears in twice. Because he doesn’t really exist except in Brooks’ mind, they had to shoot a scene with him, then without him to make sure the scene played the same with each actor in the same spot.
Minus a somewhat disappointing ending, Mr. Brooks entertains and features a strong cast. It can be somewhat gruesome in some scenes, so those who wince at these types of serial killer movies might think twice about seeing it.
(Released by MGM and rated “R” for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, nudity and language.)
Review also posted on www.reviewexpress.com.