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Mr. Brooks (2007)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/23/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/17/2007
There had been serial killer films before 1991, but as I remember, they were often lumped in with slasher movies. But, with the success of Silence of the Lambs, serial killer movies became a genre unto themselves and many have been released in the past 16 years. And in that time, these movies have become redundant and indistinguishable. Who would have expected a movie with Kevin Costner to pump new life into the serial killer genre? Mr. Brooks takes many common traits of these movies and puts a new spin on them.
Costner stars as the titular character, Earl Brooks. Brooks is a serial killer, but he prefers to think that he is simply addicted to killing. He so believes this that he attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to try and cope with his problem. Brooks is a prominent businessman (he wins an award from the chamber of commerce as the film opens), and he's married to Emma (Marg Helgenberger), and has a college-age daughter, Jane (Danielle Panabaker). From the outside, he has the perfect life. But, Brooks is constantly fighting with his inner demon. The voice in his head is named Marshall (William Hurt) and the two constantly debate around if and when Brooks will kill again. Brooks gives into his need and kills a young couple. Unfortunately, the murder is witnessed by a voyeur, Mr. Smith (Dane Cook). Smith contacts Brooks and states that he wants to accompany Brooks on his next murder. Brooks reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, police detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore) is investigating Brooks' latest murder (Brooks is known as "The Thumbprint Killer") and is determined to crack the case. Brooks is desperate to kick his habit, and he now feels pressure coming in from all sides.
In the past, I've written about how I tend to not get caught up in which actors appear in movies. But, there are some that, for one reason or another, I avoid. I must admit that I haven't seen many of Kevin Costner's films, and of those, Field of Dreams (a true American classic) is they only one that I truly enjoyed. When I heard that Costner was playing a serial killer, I winced, thinking, "There's no way he can pull this off." Well, I'm here to tell you that I was wrong and that Mr. Brooks is one of the most original and entertaining serial killer films to come along in a while.
For starters, the title says it all. This movie is about Mr. Brooks. So often, serial killer movies are about the law enforcement officials who are attempting to catch the killer and we learn little about the murderer. Or, if the movie does focus on the killer, they are portrayed as being repulsive in one way or another. (Even the charming ones like Patrick Bates in American Psycho are a little too charming.) But, Brooks is portrayed as a fairly normal person who simply has a bad habit. He loves his wife, he loves his daughter, he loves his job, and he also loves to kill. At times, he is able to control the impulses and the movie tells us that he hasn't killed in two years before his latest crime. Other movies show us a serial killer who happens to be a (occupation), but Brooks is a businessman who happens to be a serial killer.
The movie's master stroke is the character of Marshall. Is it surprising that Brooks has a voice inside his head with whom he discusses his every move? No. But, what is surprising is how calm and articulate Marshall is. He isn't a snarling, angry monster who urges Brooks to kill. Actually, he's the voice of reason at times, urging Brooks to be careful. For, as he claims in the movie, "If you die, I die." Although not as original (we've seen this before), the character of Mr. Smith is interesting as well. Mainly because we learn little about his backstory. What we conclude is that he leads a lonely work-a-day life and he feels that watching Mr. Brooks kill will bring him excitement. There's a nice juxtaposition between Brook and Detective Atwood. Due to her reputation and the fact that she's going through a nasty divorce, she's actually seen as reckless by her peers, while Brooks is seen as stable.
Mr. Brooks was written by Bruce A. Evans & Raynold Gideon and directed by Evans. This team are Hollywood veterans, having written the screenplays for such films as Starman and Stand by Me, and they certainly know how to tell a story. Mr. Brooks unfolds at a very nice pace, as we learn about Brooks and his history, while other characters are introduced. The story slowly feeds us information until we have a clear picture of what's going on. This is also a subtle and intelligent film, as there are some scenes where there is no dialogue, as Evans lets the visuals tell the story.
As good as the script by Evans and Gideon is, they've bitten off far more than they can chew. I hate to slap this label on any movie, but Mr. Brooks is over-written. There are simply too many subplots. Besides the storylines in the above synopsis, we also have a conflict between Brooks and his daughter and the fact that Atwood is also chasing "The Hangman", a killer who's escaped from prison. Add in Atwood's aforementioned divorce and there is simply too much going on in this movie and the focus shifts away from Brooks too much. The writers try their best to intertwine the various stories and this works for some of them, but not for all. Likewise, all of the plotlines aren't wrapped up and some big questions are left hanging out there. (Why did Brooks kill that last couple?) It's admirable that Evans and Gideon wanted to flesh out the characters, but not at the expense of the story.
I have to say it, Kevin Costner has starred in a pretty damn good serial killer movie. His acting style (and our perception of him) bring a calm and confidence to Brooks which really makes this film different. The story takes a very stale serial killer genre and adds some new ingredients to it. The result is a very smart film which is filled with intriguing characters and well-placed twists (especially that last one!). Fans who have given up on the genre should definitely check out Mr. Brooks.
Mr. Brooks neatly arranges his victims on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Please keep in mind that I viewed a preview copy for this review. The image is sharp and clear in that it shows no distracting grain or defects from the source material. However, the copy that I watched was riddled with on-screen pixellation and video noise. Shots of the downtown locations showed jagged lines around the buildings. On the plus side, the colors were fine and the image was never too dark. The DVD contains both a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track and a DTS 5.1 track. Both tracks provide clear dialogue and sound effects. The movie has a nice sound design and there are some great stereo and surround effects. There was a sound effect from the rear speakers in one scene which made me almost leap from my seat. There are also some nice subwoofer moments as well.
The Mr. Brooks DVD has a few bonus features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon. This is a good chat as the old friends give a detailed account of the film's production, pointing out locations, discussing the story, and commenting on the actors. The DVD contains 6 DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes. The alternate opening is very interesting, but it was wise to cut the scenes with Atwood going on a date. Evans and Gideon discuss the creation of the story and characters in "The Birth of a Serial Killer: The Writing of Mr. Brooks" (7 minutes). "On the Set of Mr. Brooks" (9 minutes) contains behind-the-scenes footage and comments from the filmmakers and cast, who talk about the characters and the on-set atmosphere. "Murder on Their Minds: Mr. Brooks, Marshall, and Mr. Smith" (9 minutes) examines each character in detail with comments from Costner, Hurt, and Cook. The film's THEATRICAL TRAILER rounds out the extras.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has also brought Mr. Brooks to Blu-ray Disc. The disc features a 1080p HD AVC transfer and the film is letterboxed at 1.85:1. The image isn't grainy, but there is what can only be called a haze on the image. It isn't overly distracting, but this makes the image seem less sharp than some other Blu-rays that I've seen. The picture is otherwise clear and there are no defects from the source material. The colors look fine and the night-time scenes are never overly dark. I noted no blurring or video noise on the image. The disc features a DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio track which runs at 1.5 Mbps. This track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects, but to be honest, I was disappointed by it. The stereo separation was good and highly detailed, bu the surround sound and subwoofer effects (even a thunderstorm) didn't really stand out. That is, until Chapter 29. This scene contains a gunfight and the explosive sounds echo around the room. This scenes would make a nice home theater demo. The Blu-ray contains the same extras as the DVD with one addition -- "Cat and Mouse: Inside the Mr. Brooks Case File" is a pop-up video style trivia track which can be viewed with the film.
Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long