We all have guilty pleasures. Chocolate. Hannity & Colmes. John Tesh music. Snorting blow off the buttocks of a Thai hooker. The one thing all those have in common though is their general acceptance by polite society. My own guilty pleasure is more embarrassing than these, and I rarely find myself able to talk about it without fear of recrimination and judgment.
I like Kevin Costner.
This is not a new affliction for me. I’ve been a fan since he stole Silverado from the more seasoned ensemble around him. The rest of the movie-going public joined me in the late eighties through the early nineties as he churned out hit after hitâ€¦ movies that not only made money but were actually damn entertaining. No Way Out, The Untouchables, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Dances With Wolvesâ€¦ How quickly people forget.
Granted the man then went on to make some incredibly bad movies, like 3000 Miles to Graceland, which was without question the worst film released in 2001. (Yes, the same year that saw Freddy Got Fingered, Pearl Harbor, and Britney Spears’ Crossroads.) But mixed in with the bad and mostly mediocre there have been some great performances in really good films… Tin Cup and The Upside of Anger come immediately to mind. Which brings me to the newly released DVD of Costner’s latest film, Mr. Brooks.
Costner plays Earl Brooks. Husband, father, businessman, serial killerâ€¦ This isn’t a spoiler as the movie’s entire advertising campaign was built around Costner’s portrayal of a killer. His usual strength is in playing the casual everyman, equally at home as a friend to both men and women. But here he plays against type, and he has a lot of fun doing it. The audience knows what he is going in, but even so the reveal is the film’s first major flaw. A ridiculous bit of text appears on screen before the opening credits have even started. â€œThe hunger has returned to Mr. Brooks’ brain. It never really left.â€ Horrible. We then hear an ominous voice-over between Costner and William Hurt (the physical manifestation of Brooks’ dark side) before seeing Brooks at a banquet in honor of him being an all-around great guy. We’re told too much too early and never really have time to get the contrast between the two halves of his person. That said, Costner does an excellent job with a character barely in control of his actions, even channeling a little bit of the maniacal glee he first showed in Silverado. He’s a more controlled nut here, but still a nut.
The second major flaw is the sheer number of subplots jammed into the story. Dane Cook plays a whiny little voyeur blackmailing Mr. Brooks (aka the Thumbprint Killer) into taking him on a ride-along for his next kill. Demi Moore is the detective who’s been investigating the â€œThumbprint Killerâ€ for years nowâ€¦ and is in the middle of a nasty divorceâ€¦ and is dealing with an escaped serial killer who she had put away. And then there’s Brooks’ daughter, Jane, played by Danielle Panabaker. The less said there the better, so I’ll say only this. Director/co-writer Bruce A. Evans and Costner both talked up the idea that this film was the first part of a proposed trilogy. Between the detective and the daughter it’s pretty clear where the plot would have gone in the sequels. I say â€œwould haveâ€ because the film’s box office take all but guarantees those sequels will never get made.
So where does Mr. Brooks fit in the Costner oeuvre? Somewhere uncomfortably in the middle I think. It wants to be so much more than it is. And at the same time, it’s better than it really should be. The performances are good across the board (even FSR favorite Dane Cook squeaks by.) There’s some wonderfully wicked dialogue between Costner and Hurt that almost leans the film into black comedy territory. And of course, it’s a Kevin Costner movie! One of the good ones! Bottom line, Mr. Brooks is not a great film, but it is a fun film. And that’s actually saying quite a bit these days.
||Release Date: October 23, 2007
Running Time: 120 minutes
Cast: Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, Dane Cook, William Hurt, Marg Helgenberger
Director: Bruce A. Evans
Also Available: Blu-Ray