Score one for Kevin Costner. His dark and disturbingly compelling psychological thriller Mr. Brooks could give the once powerful Dances with Wolves star his first hit in many moons.
Just be thankful Mr. Brooks doesn't have anything to do with water or delivering the mail in a post-apocalyptic world. Or baseball, for that matter. Costner plays the title character Mr. Brooks, who is not just any bad guy but a sociopathic serial killer with a cunning, wicked alter ego named Marshall (William Hurt) who eggs him on. Of course, on the surface, Brooks seems like a normal, successful business owner with a lovely wife (Marg Helgenberger) and college-aged daughter (Danielle Panabaker), and so far he has managed to keep his two incompatible worlds from intersecting. Until now. When an amateur photographer (Dane Cook) witnesses Mr. Brooks in action, the killer finds himself entangled in the dark agenda of the opportunistic bystander--who calls himself Mr. Smith--as well as hunted by a tenacious detective (Demi Moore). Thing is, Mr. Brooks sort of wants to get caught, just to end it. Isn't that what all good little serial killers want?
Finally, a starring vehicle Costner can sink his teeth into. He is always better when he's edgy (i.e. Bull Durham, Upside of Anger), so playing full-blown evil works for him. Of course, his Mr. Brooks isn't completely without a moral compass. The ultra-Catholic Brooks views his predilection for murder, or "hunger" as he calls it, as an addiction and thus treats it accordingly by going to AA meetings. While the actor effectively shows this inner turmoil, Costner truly shines in his scenes with Hurt. A protagonist interacting with an alter ego, manifested for the audience but who is really only in his head, is a very tricky plot device. These actors make it work, though, conveying an easy rapport, especially when they are messing with Cook's character. As for the stand-up comedian, he continues to branch out by playing the dimwitted Mr. Smith to moderate effect. It's actually a perfect fit for Cook and doesn't require him to put out much effort. Moore also does a fine job as the determined Det. Tracy Atwood, even though her character skews towards the clichéd as a rogue cop who likes to do things her own way, rules be damned!
Co-writer/director Bruce Evans makes Mr. Brooks his second directorial effort after 1992's Kuffs. You mean the Kuffs with Christian Slater? Yikes. OK, so maybe he's more known as a writer, who, along with his writing partner Raynold Gideon, penned '80s classics such as Starman and Stand By Me. Their last writing effort, however, was the 1997 Tim Allen comedy Jungle 2 Jungle. I'm not really selling this guy, am I? What I'm trying to say is that aside from the dodgy previous directing credit and lengthy hiatus, Evans still handles Mr. Brooks like a pro. The script is mostly concise and cleverly twisty--only faltering when it veers off into Atwood's private life--while Evans keeps the action up close and personal, almost intimate in the way Brooks operates. And without giving too much away, the best part is the Bad Seed angle. If they make more movies about Mr. Brooks (apparently it's being set up as a trilogy), we'll definitely be there.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.