Bruce A. Evans
Following in the footsteps of actors like Harrison Ford in What Lies Beneath, Tom Cruise in Collateral and Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition, All-American actor Kevin Costner (most famous for Ron Shelton sports comedies and the bad haircut from The Bodyguard) takes on the role of a killer in Mr. Brooks. Seemingly inspired by Jekyll and Hyde, the film opens as Costner’s box factory owner Earl Brooks wins an award as Man of the Year. Soon after the ceremony, Earl is prodded by his alter ego Marshall to come back from his two year hiatus and commit more murder as the Thumbprint Killer. Marshall is played by William Hurt who gets the film’s best lines time and time again, recalling that even in small roles like this and History of Violence he remains one of our most fascinating players. After the double homicide, the troubled Earl tries one more time to go clean from his murderous addiction by attending AA meetings in his Portland, Oregon community but four characters seem to prevent him from doing that. The first is Marshall who whispers sour nothings into his ear on a regular basis and seems to have keen insight into the arrival of two more characters early on—Dane Cook as a genuinely creepy engineer and voyeur who, having snapped photos of the latest crime, wants to be Brooks’s sidekick for the next murder, and Jane, Earl’s daughter who suddenly returns home from her freshman year of college with more than a few shocking revelations that seem to indicate that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Demi Moore shows up looking determined and justifiably angry as the foremost expert on the Thumbprint Killer and, having caught numerous notorious criminals in her detective career has a hard time separating her messy divorce from her money hungry soon to be ex from not only the Thumbprint case but another serial killer who’s arrived back in town. If it sounds overly complicated, it is—too many characters make the narrative focus uneven and we feel cheated by some of the more interesting characters—especially the Jane storyline—being left to the sidelines. While this may have been the director’s intention all along as Costner stated, according to IMDb that Mr. Brooks is the first in a trilogy of films, audiences will feel a let down from the rushed film and a few gaping plot holes and logical questions that don’t ring true such as Mr. Brooks’s unintelligent choice to change his disguise in broad daylight or even more hard to believe, his picking up Cook’s Smith in the same vicinity several nights in a row at the exact same time for their strange killer camaraderie of Mr. Smith and Mr. Brooks—or what one could call the yuppie sociopath version of Reservoir Dogs.