Mr. Brooks

Dir: Bruce A. Evans
Star: Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, William Hurt, Dane Cook

Hmmm. Serial-killer who has a 'dark passenger', operates by a self-imposed set of rules, not suspected at all by his other half or the rest of the community? Made in 2007, there are similarities between this and Showtime series, Dexter - though curiously, other aspects, such as the killer's use of AA to try and curb his tendencies, or a genetic disposition towards killing, which appear in later Dexter series. Of course, this lacks the delicious irony of a psychopath working for the police. Here, Brooks (Costner) is simply a box-magnate and the Thumbprint Killer. He executes an elaborate set of rituals with care and precision, leaving no traces, beyond the ones he wants, such as his victims' bloody thumbprints. He's encouraged by the voices in his head, manifesting as Marshall (Hurt), and is hunted by Detective Tracy Atwood (Moore). She has her own problems: in the middle of a messy divorce, and another killer she previously put away, has escaped and is out for revenge. More of a threat is "Mr. Smith" (Cook), who photographs Brooks at the scene of the crime, and uses the pictures to blackmail Brooks into coming along on his next excursion.

While the similarities to Dexter are often a distraction, the central idea merits more exploration. However, this does work better in its police procedural aspect than the familial ones: the freedom with which Brooks operates, without his wife asking even the barest of questions, is fairly implausible [it might have been amusing if they'd both been killer - Mr. and Mrs. Brooks?]. That aside, the performances in this are solid, with particularly-fine interplay between Brooks and Marshall as they debate the finer points of killing, and whether to proceed or not. Even Cook, a sure contender for most-irritating man of the decade, is largely restrained, only occasionally toppling over into the kind of histrionics that had us leaning over to whisper to each other, "Dane Cook..." While the twists in the plot do perhaps go a step beyond the credible, it's never ludicrous and remains an interesting piece of work. Originally intended as the first of a trilogy, the limited box-office may have killed such hopes, and that's a shame.

[November 2009]

Mr. Brooks and his dark passenger
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