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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Mr. Brooks

The new Kevin Costner movie Mr. Brooks is now playing at the Essex Cinemas and it is not exactly a Field of Dreams. It’s more of a Field of Screams, which is a terrific change of pace for Costner because, frankly, he is as bland as oatmeal as far as I’m concerned. I know he had the female population in a slather of excitement during his Bull Durham days, but that was in 1988, and a lot of Waterworld has past under the dam since then. Just ask The Postman because Rumor Has It Kevin has made enough flops in the last twenty years to discourage even his most diehard fans from shaking a Tin Cup in his direction to salute him. Still, I did like The Guardian last year in which he co-starred with Ashton Kutcher, so I thought it interesting that he was making a new film this year with Mrs. Kutcher, Demi Moore. Look for the Bruce Willis/Kevin Costner collaboration in 2008.

So what about
Mr. Brooks? He’s quite an interesting guy for someone without much of a personality of his own. Well, actually he has two, so it’s not fair to say he doesn’t have much of one, it’s just that the Earl Brooks who inhabits his body and is the wealthy owner of a Portland, Oregon based box manufacturing company is a big yawn. Sure, he is the “Man of the Year” in the business community but, God, is he dull. He barely emotes when he talks with his wife Emma (Marg Helgenberger; tv’s “CSI”). Granted, she isn’t very interesting either and has nothing much to say for herself except to blather on about some other woman’s nipples showing through her dress, which doesn’t exactly show her having a great mind for foreign policy or rocket science. Blame script writers Bruce A. Evans (who also directed) and former actor Raymond Evans, who did a great job with a complicated story, but left way too much of Mr. Brooks’ home life vague and unbelievable. As much as I liked the overall story the movie told, I could just never buy the idea that Brooks’ wife could be so unaware as to live with the man for more than twenty years or so and never notice anything askew considering his having an aggressive alternative personality with a penchant for murder.

As we learn during the film, Mr. Brooks has killed “many, many people in a variety of ways” before he was collared by the press with the moniker “The Fingerprint Killer” after he began killing couples and leaving their fingerprints in blood as a calling card for the police. He also liked to artistically arrange the corpses in romantic poses for reasons never explored. That is one of the inherent problems with the movie, but one I was more than willing to excuse while watching the film. It’s only after the flick is over that you start asking yourself some of the questions that are never answered. The origin of Earl’s other personality, for instance, is never explained. Obviously, a person suffering from a multiple personality has experienced some enormous shock and trauma of their own, so we can assume Brooks did too, and somehow the modeling of the dead must tie in, but it’s just left abandoned. So is the logic in how Earl has convinced Emma for so long that his nightly absences are all work-related. I’d think any other woman would have hired a private detective long before now to trail the guy, convinced he was playing slap-and-tickle with his secretary Sunday (Yasmine Delawari;
Retaliation), a hot number who lights up the screen in her few scenes.

The plot of
Mr. Brooks is incredibly complex and fabulously twisted. Unfortunately, there is very little about it I can tell you without spoiling some of the surprises along the way. It’s obvious from the advertising that Costner plays a serial killer and Demi Moore (Bobby) plays Tracy Atwood, the detective on his case, but this is so very much more than a simple cat-and-mouse game between the two. As a matter of fact, they never actually share a scene together except one, by phone. Both, however, have many complications in their own lives that play into the larger picture of the investigation. Atwood is an heiress, in the midst of a contentious divorce from her much younger, philandering husband, Jesse Vialo (Jason Lewis of tv’s “Brothers and Sisters”) who is demanding millions in a settlement. She also needs to be on the lookout for Thornton Meeks (Matt Schulze; Final Move), another psycho serial killer who she put in prison years earlier and who has just escaped with vengeance on his mind. Oh, and then there’s her Captain (Lindsay Crouse;
Prefontaine), who has a bug up her keister about how the divorce, the escape, and the unsolved Fingerprint Killer cases are reflecting on the department thanks to Atwood’s work and high public profile.

Meanwhile, Earl has his own problems. There’s his daughter Jane (Danielle Panabaker; tv’s “Shark”). She arrived home in the middle of her freshman year from college with a surprise for Dad
and Mom. She’s pregnant, but that is only the tiny part of the news. The rest is something much grimmer that fuels Earl’s biggest fear of all, and it is completely unexpected. He is also confronted with a worrisome loose end from one of his murders, a witness going by the name of Mr. Smith (Dane Cook; Employee of the Month). Mr. Smith, it turns out, is more of a loose cannon than loose end, and he comes with an agenda of his own that is way beyond the usual blackmail for money shakedown. And, of course, there is the never-ending nagging and scheming of his alternate personality, conjured on-screen as Marshall, played with wicked menace by William Hurt (
The Good Shepherd). Hurt is absolutely delicious as the goading and coercing side of Mr. Brooks. He has no intentions of letting Earl stop killing or of allowing Earl to have himself killed as a way to end the murder spree. If Earl has a true enemy, it is Marshall, and he is much stronger and smarter than Earl is.

So you put all these problems into a blender and stir them on high and the resulting plot zigzags all over the place and roars like a train coming at you faster than a bullet. Mr. Brooks, the movie, will have you on the edge of your seat, literally, with unexpected jumps and false starts and scares at just the right moments. Unlike so many cheesy horror movies where the timing for these frights is rote, director Evans pops in moments of surprise like Jack-in-the-Box toys, opening at the most unexpected times.

For once, Costner’s under-acting plays well as his character is supposed to be the passive half of a whole and he does seem less than complete. Hurt, on the other hand, is buoyant as Marshall, and Moore is terrific as always in a role that is fairly divorced from the Brooks’ action through most of the film.

Go see
Mr. Brooks. Definitely. But make sure to take at least one or two friends with you who are articulate enough to speculate about the unsaid parts of the movie afterwards because Mr. Brooks himself has the makings of a legendary character like Hannibal Lecter if the mythology of his character is treated with respect and intelligence.

I for one, feel that the ending was a last minute tacked-on bit that doesn’t do much to show respect or intelligence to good writing however. The last two minutes of the movie are a terrible letdown, but don’t let that discourage you as they don’t change the grand scope of the bigger story unless you ponder other unspoken possibilities left out of the movie, but only hinted at. If the last moment was left out, there would be no opportunity for a sequel, and clearly the studio wouldn’t want to take the chance of killing a golden goose before it was even presented to the public; hence the ending. If, however, you take the ending as presented in the minute before (the good night scene) there is LOTS of room to speculate about unspoken bits of the Brooks saga.

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Just my speculation: If the original ending was with Jane killing her father, could it have been because he (or should we say Marshall) had been molesting her for who knows how long? Perhaps he was the father of her unborn child, which would explain Earl’s absolute insistence on no abortion and her saying the father was “married with two children” ~ the second being the one she was carrying. Maybe Emma’s almost bizarre detachment from Earl was because on some level she knew but like many women didn’t want to believe or acknowledge it and so she ignored everything and her life became a numb semi-existence. And did Jane kill the boy at school or could Earl/Marshall have done that as well, perhaps out of jealousy because the young man was interested in Jane? Then he forgot about doing it because Marshall wanted him to. These are questions that need answers. And just what did happen to that car while we’re at it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Killing Mr. Smith could hardly go unnoticed. As meticulous as Mr Brooks is he kills Smith with a shovel. The entire site would be covered with aterial spray.