Is Kevin Costner a good guy? If the script is strong enough (in Bull Durham for instance) he's a credible hero. But he can be even more effective letting that question hang in the air - as he did in Clint Eastwood's A Perfect World. Now that the shine has gone off his looks, there's something about his flat, monotonous voice… he's seems so ordinary it's almost creepy. At any rate, the role of Mr Brooks is tailor-made to explore these contradictions.
The movie begins with a dinner in his honour, but this "man of the year" has something - or someone - preying on his mind. During the drive home Marshall (William Hurt) pops up in the back seat, though Mrs Brooks (Marg Helgenberger) doesn't appear to notice. A kind of evil Jiminy Cricket, or Tyler Durden without the faux bonhomie, Marshall urges Brooks to satisfy his instincts and kill again. After all, for an amateur he's really quite the pro. When the deed is done he likes to pose the corpses for some artistic snapshots. Then he erases the evidence. He doesn't just wipe for prints, he vacuums the entire apartment - a real clean freak. It'll be the last time, he tells himself (and Marshall, who knows better).
For once, though, Mr Brooks makes a mistake. Unaccountably, he leaves the blinds open. Luckily for him, the witness, Mr Smith (Dane Cook) contacts the serial killer, not the cops. It's an unusual form of blackmail he has in mind. To buy his silence, he wants Mr Brooks to take him along on his next kill - show him the ropes, as it were. Rather tickled by such presumption, Brooks figures he'll play along for a while and see where it goes.
Written and directed by Bruce A Evans (Kuffs), Mr Brooks is a fiendish thriller. I'm not quite prepared to say it's "fiendishly clever", nor do I understand why we assume fiends are any cleverer than the rest of us. But if this movie is to be believed, there are a lot of them about, many more than you'd think. So many, in fact, that I lost track of how many psychopaths we have encountered before it is through (do multiple personalities count as one or more?).
As if Mr B doesn't have enough to worry about with Marshall whispering in his ear and Mr Smith riding shotgun, his daughter Jane (Danielle Panabaker) comes home early from college, pregnant. Then there's badass Detective Atwood (Demi Moore) sniffing around where she's not welcome, sporting a power suit like it's 1993.
What tempted Moore to play cop is hard to say, but the role appears to have been beefed up to make it more star-worthy. Not that this little subplot about her contentious divorce settlement brings anything to the movie. See, she's a millionaire's daughter and, oh, never mind - but her ex is an asshole, that's all you need to know.
Dane Cook is appropriately cast as the despicable Smith. Evans seems to have decided that a sleazeball who wants to try murder for kicks is of a lower moral standing than the addicted schizophrenic serial killer who really can't help himself - and he may well be right, though it's not a distinction that's going to mean very much if you have the bad fortune to bump into the pair of them on a dark night. Or maybe that should be the three of them, since Marshall is always there or thereabouts.
This double-act between Mr Brooks and his rampaging alter-ego is certainly the flick's most unusual and entertaining aspect. Hurt and Costner are indeed men of a certain age and similar solid disposition, and they bicker together like an old married couple. They're not happy about it, either of them, but they're stuck with each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health, 'til death do them part.
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