Hollywood is again infatuated with serial killers. Earlier this year we had the dull Fracture, which had Anthony Hopkins as a mega-controlled psychopath who does his killing in plain sight and still gets away (not to mention brainless franchises like Saw). Now it’s time for Kevin Costner to try the type on for size in Mr. Brooks. He’s addicted to killing and goes to AA meetings to try to control it. For years he’s been the “Thumbprint Killer,” in addition to being a hugely successful businessman and public figure. When he’s got the urge, his evil imaginary double Marshall (William Hurt) pops up and convinces him to do it. How’s that for a laugh?
There is sadly an overabundance of plot in Mr. Brooks. To round things up, there’s a Mr. Smith who’s blackmailing him (Dane Cook), a detective (Demi Moore) who’s after him, and his pregnant daughter, who is possibly a serial killer herself. It’s not that the script’s confusing: they don’t get in the way of each other narrative-wise, but there’s so much going on in all different directions that there’s no focus. The center of all this, the relationship between Brooks and Marshall, is underdeveloped. Marshall turns out to be little more than a way of fleshing out the character of Mr. Brooks himself, as much as I enjoy William Hurt’s presence. In other words, Marshall is only there to provide character motivation, all done in the form of expository dialogue.
It’s almost amateurish the way the script overreaches, filled with a lot of characters and situations but failing to convincingly develop a single one (one would be enough). Even Demi Moore’s supercop (in an absurd scene, she gets into a cross-fire with two mean criminals and not only escapes unscathed, she wounds them so badly they end up shooting themselves) has a subplot. I guess I don’t have to say that her acting is atrociously bad, and she looks as expressive as a broomstick. Even worse is the fact that Brooks’ teenage daughter is (or he so believes) a serial killer herself, and that he ends up murdering someone else in her way as to guarantee her an alibi. It really puts a strain on our suspension of disbelief, mostly because it’s completely unnecessary. I guess the taste for blood must run in the family. Har har!