October 30, 2007
With very few exceptions (Zodiac), the serial killer genre is dead. Or, at the very least, is completely exhausted with nothing new to say. Along comes Mr. Brooks (2007) which attempts to offer the novelty of Kevin Costner, known mainly for playing upstanding heroes, as a cold-blooded killer. While the actor seems up for it, the rest of the film lacks any kind of spark or vitality.
Earl Brooks (Costner) is an upstanding businessman and philanthropist. He’s a nice husband and a good family man. He’s also a serial killer with a schizophrenic disorder in the form of an alter ego named Marshall (Hurt) who lingers over his shoulder and goads him into killing. Marshall is his giddy, naughty id that Earl tries to keep in check but as the saying goes, you can’t escape from what you are.
He kills a couple having sex one night; the only problem is that a scuzzbag voyeur (Cook) took photographs of Earl killing them. He contacts Earl and tells him that he wants go along with the killer the next time he kills or he will turn him in to the police. Police detective Tracy Atwood (Moore) is investigating the murder and has been tracking Earl’s case for some time. She has her own problems as she faces a messy divorce and a serial killer (Schulze) she sent to prison has escaped, looking for revenge.
Kevin Costner and William Hurt play well off each other and seem to be having a lot of fun in their scenes together. Hurt gets the juicy role of Earl’s flashy id while Costner is the calm, collected killer. Their contrasting styles play well off each other and it feels like they’ve come from another, better film.
Mr. Brooks clumsily copies Michael Mann’s Manhunter (1986) and countless other serial killer films but stylistically, in terms of editing, lighting and cinematography, director Bruce A. Evans is clearly mimicking Mann. Mr. Brooks also suffers from a badly written screenplay that presents us with a lot of narrative threads with seemingly no rhyme or reason and then leaves some of them hanging. The dialogue is, at times, clunky and pretentious with thinly-sketched characters. The script lacks internal logic and makes some baffling narrative leaps that are simply a result of lazy writing. In the hands of someone like Paul Verhoeven, this film could have been a really twisted, entertaining thriller but instead we have a boring one that demonstrates how tired the serial killer genre has become.
There is an audio commentary by writer/director Bruce A. Evans and writer/producer Raynold Gideon. They wrote the film with Kevin Costner in mind and talk briefly about the challenge of getting the script to him and then convincing the actor to do it. These guys had a history of writing kid-oriented films and made a conscious decision with this one to write something darker. These guys deliver a chatty track that is slightly more interesting than the film is.
Also included are six deleted scenes that include an alternate opening credits sequence that is more explicit. There are also two scenes with Atwood on a date with a male escort and a scene with more forensic information. Judging by this footage, Atwood was the character that suffered the most at the hands of the editors.
“The Birth of the Serial Killer: The Writing of Mr. Brooks” takes us through the writing process. The writers claim that it is a moral script about obsession. They describe their process and talk about various characters and their motivations.
“On the Set of Mr. Brooks” examines the principal photography phase. They made this film independently and this gave them creative control. They talk about the locations and how they used Louisiana to double for Portland (?!). Some of the actors talk about working on the film with footage of them on the set.
“Murder on their Minds: Mr. Brooks, Marshall and Mr. Smith” explores the relationship between these three characters and their fascination with murder. The three actors talk about working together.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.