Kevin Costner Masterminds Erotically Tinged Guilty Pleasures
by Prairie Miller
MR. BROOKS, The DVD Review
Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) is in a deep funk. The fabulously wealthy businessman, recently anointed Man Of The Year, and meek, caring husband and family man has been warding off a powerful addiction for years now by faithfully attending AA meetings. But those seductive forces are wearing down his increasingly shaky self-discipline shored up by daily prayer, and that irresistible hunger is threatening to take control of his life once again. For the dapper Mr. Brooks is about to let caution fly to the wind and assume once again his role as notorious serial murderer, The Thumbprint Killer.
Mr. Brooks is a thoroughly original, sleek psychological crime thriller teeming with smooth, dazzling plot moves and crisp, dry wit. Not that a surprise serial killer as an impeccable pillar of the community is such a novel idea. Gallant gents with dark sides have wreaked their havoc on the public before, witness the BTK Killer's lifelong reputation as churchgoing devoted husband and father, and Cub Scout leader.
But filmmaker Bruce A. Evans has much more on his mind than simply sordid tabloid melodrama, however far fetched. With the cunning skill of a connoisseur director who can lure us into believing in the frequent absurdity of the ongoing proceedings, Evans mesmerizes with a smart, psychologically dense, and just plain hilarious yarn, even while teasing with stirring up audience conflicted doubts about our own suspect pleasure in experiencing awfully demented, erotically tinged deeds up on the screen.
Costner's believability as a sympathetic character in fierce battle with his horrendous demons is conveyed through the dangerous, brilliant and persistent alternate personality living inside his head and simultaneously in the back seat of his car, Marshall (William Hurt). It is always at Marshall's insistence that Brooks seemingly reluctantly and robotically carries out his crimes, and in effect retaining a peculiar convincing innocence himself throughout.
But Brooks has gotten a little stale because of his abstinence over the years, even with the guidance of his high IQ instigator Marshall. Therefore, his latest indulgence, the home invasion point blank shooting of a randomly chosen young couple in the middle of bedroom sex, after he's stalked them for some time, turns up a witness to the crime via an open window. It seems that amateur photographer Mr. Smith (Dane Cook) who lives across the way and has been taking snapshots of the exhibitionist lewd pair, is himself turned on by the idea of serial killing. And he'll squeal on Brooks to the authorities unless allowed to henceforth come along for the ride.
At the same time, Brooks discovers he's being tailed by a second stalker running interference, legendary police detective Tracy Atwood (a buffed and scary Demi Moore). She's a wealthy heiress who hardly needs the paycheck, but is instead into the hard-core compulsion of the chase as much as Brooks/Marshall feeds off the thrill of eluding capture.
This totally preposterous yet utterly captivating thriller is so skilled in its execution, that it's easy for the audience to forget its own vicarious indulgence in some fairly perverse, psychologically unhinged acted out fantasy. The notion of guilty pleasure has never been quite so literal and complicit on screen before.
A DVD release from MGM Pictures, in widescreen Dolby Digital format. Extras: Deleted Scenes, including an alternate opening of the film; The Birth of a Serial Killer: The Writing of Mr. Brooks; On the set of Mr. Brooks; and, Murder on Their Minds: Mr. Brooks, Marshall and Mr. Smith. Also, the theatrical trailer, and Commentary, with writer/director Bruce A. Evans and co-screenwriter Raynold Gideon.
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