Sunday, July 29, 2007

You're A Mean One Mr. Brooks!

The wife and I recently got a night out without the kids and decided to see an “adult” movie. No, not an XXX movie! I mean a movie that wouldn’t be appropriate for the kids to see. We settled on “Mr. Brooks” with Kevin Costner. It was a good choice. It was definitely different from our usual movie going these days.

The main character, Earl Brooks, is that most modern of monsters --- a thoroughly organized, very intelligent, highly functioning serial killer. He has a thriving business, a happy family, and a beautiful home. He is a modern day Jekyll and Hyde. Although most serial killers suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder, the organized serial killer is one of the two types of serial killers so Earl Brooks is not as improbable as I first thought. Mr. Brooks has a voice in his head named Marshall (portrayed by William Hurt) so he is probably schizophrenic, which makes his button downed facade more improbable. Mr. Brooks is sort of like Hannibal Lecter without the cannibalism. Mr. Brooks is chilling in the way that only someone who stalks and kills other people but is the Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year can be. I won’t reveal too much of the plot because it is the plot twists and turns that make this movie worth watching.

Marg Helgenberger of “China Beach” and most recently, “CSI; Crime Scene Investigation” is her usually lovely self as Mrs. Brooks. I do question why such a loving wife never wonders where her husband is during his all night long adventures. The cover story is that he is in his pottery studio. But no one in the family ever comes to the studio to check on him, to chat, or to see his latest work. The studio is ridiculously clean and where do all those pieces that he must create go? Danielle Panabaker plays the beautiful college age daughter. She’s just a bit creepy when she hangs all over Daddy to get what she wants. Is she seducing her father or what? Costner’s reserve saves these scenes from being too creepy.

Speaking of reserve, at least one review I read complained that Costner slept walk through the role and didn’t portray enough emotional range. I think that’s the point. Underneath the cool, calm, reserved exterior of Earl Brooks lurks a homicidal maniac. A person fighting his homicidal urges and the encouraging voice in his head would probably be very reserved as he struggled to maintain his facade of normalcy. It is that thin veneer of calm competence that makes Costner’s portrayal of Brooks so chillingly believable. By the way, Mr. Brooks fights his “addiction” to killing by attending AA meetings. He repeats AA prayers often and calls himself an addict.

Demi Moore is the equally improbable homicide detective who hunts Brooks. What is so improbable about her character? She is a tough as nails, unstoppable homicide detective who is even wealthier than Brooks. It would be like Paris Hilton picking up a gun and a badge and going to work.

Dane Cook plays the serial killer fanboy, Mr. Smith who wheedles his way into the life of Earl Brooks so that he can vicariously feel the thrill of the kill. He manages to make his character even less sympathetic than Earl Brooks. He has never killed anyone and yet you find yourself rooting for Brooks against Smith. It can’t be easy to play a character that makes a serial killer look good. Mr. Smith's nervousness and lack of calm makes a good counterpoint to Earl Brooks.

It is frightening to think that there actually are seemingly normal people just like your next door neighbor who are capable of serial murder. In the end, that is what makes this movie a guilty pleasure. If you like low key “horror movies” that are more cerebral than visceral, I’d recommend this thriller as one you should see.

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