Sunday, December 11, 2011

REVIEW: Mr. Brooks (2007)

Director: Bruce A. Evans
Starring: Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, Dane Cook, William Hurt, Danielle Panabaker

One of the most flat out entertaining movies of the last few years. I’m not entirely sure of Mr. Brooks’ artistic merit, but it’s a fun, clever, well put together and energetic romp that I always love to watch whenever I see it. Starring Kevin Costner, William Hurt and Demi Moore, Mr. Brooks weaves a complex, fast-paced tale of betrayal, desires and bloodlust.

Mr. Brooks (Costner) is a serial killer, and there’s the first draw that makes this thing more interesting than your average cop thriller. This isn’t like Dexter where the hero is killing for a justifiable reason, no – Mr. Brooks just kills random people who haven’t done anything, and only because he is addicted to it. You could make the argument that his want to stop makes him a more likable character, but the ending of the movie squashes that one, and I think the fact that the film asks you to try and root for this guy is part of the challenge and the fun. He is aided by his sarcastic, murderous alter-ego (Hurt), appearing to him in spirit-form, urging him to kill and often being the little devil on his shoulder. Except there really isn’t an angel on his shoulder at all.

Part of the reason this is so much fun is because they have SO MUCH material that they can throw at you, and they do – there are about 4 different plots going on here. Mr. Brooks is trying to get rid of his killing urge, all while dealing with the blackmailing weasel Dane Cook’s character is, and also worrying about his daughter, who is a) pregnant, b) dropped out of school and c) may have killed someone, all at the same time. Meanwhile, his rival, a detective (Moore) is going through a divorce lawsuit and having trouble staying afloat in the bureaucratic tide because of it. There’s a lot of stuff going on and it’s handled with a burning, kinetic energy that just makes this fun to watch. Everything feels urgent and important. That’s a big part of a good movie of any genre. You have to feel invested. And with this, you really are.

The casting is plain odd – Dane Cook, Kevin Costner and Demi Moore together in a movie is just surreal – and I have to say some of the acting is a bit shaky, and the only reason why this isn’t an out and out modern classic. Sometimes they get a bit dull (in Costner and Hurt’s cases) or melodramatic (in Moore’s case – can she possibly grit her teeth any more?), and Dane Cook is pretty annoying. But most of the time it doesn’t offend too much, and everyone does seem really into what they’re doing, even when the performances are a little on the B-grade side.

I think the film is strongest when it’s focusing on Mr. Brooks and his daughter Jane (Danielle Panabaker), as here it’s where we see Mr. Brooks’ character in the best light, and learn the most about him. The fact that he’s a serial killer looking out for his daughter in such an odd way is really interesting, and the two have some great scenes together. One of them is when he’s talking to her in the kitchen after he finds out she is pregnant, and the other is at the very end, and I won’t spoil that for you. One of the film’s best subplots is the mystery behind Jane’s dropping out of school.

The main bulk of the film focuses on Mr. Brooks’ battle of wits with Mr. Smith (Dane Cook), who caught him in a photograph the night of his last kill. Mr. Smith does not go to the police and instead wants Mr. Brooks to teach him how to kill someone. Demi Moore’s subplot also takes up a lot of the runtime, and along with all the other subplots, the film becomes a virtual meltdown of action-packed insanity. The film works because of its fast pace, as it keeps the thrills and suspense building right until the very end.

By the climax, you’ll be howling for more. Mr. Brooks might not be the most tasteful film ever, but it is exciting, intense and addictive as hell. It goes for the throat and provides a rollicking, insane good time for everyone. Go see it.