Killer Thriller

Mr. Brooks
Running Time 120 minutes
Directed by Bruce Evans
Written by Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon
Starring  Kevin Costner, William Hurt, Demi Moore, Dane Cook

Bruce  Evans’s Mr. Brooks, from a screenplay by Mr. Evans and Raynold Gideon, turns out to be an ingeniously twisting thriller, fascinating more for its homoerotic tendencies than for its homicidal acts. First of all, this is the first version of the Jekyll and Hyde story in which the solid citizen and his evil alter ego are two close friends played by two separate charismatic actors. Of course, I have used the term “solid citizen” to describe Kevin Costner’s Mr. Brooks more aptly than Robert Louis Stevenson’s original Dr. Jekyll, who produced Mr. Hyde out of his test tubes. It is never explained how Mr. Brooks produced William Hurt’s Hyde equivalent, Marshall, a comparatively companionable alter ego, with whom Mr. Brooks shares many a hearty laugh over the sheer humor inherent in the quest for murder victims. In fact, Mr. Brooks seems much closer to Marshall than to his own beautiful wife, Marg Helgenberger’s Emma Brooks, who spends most of her screen time either sleeping alone in her bed or tending to their problem-plagued teenage daughter, Jane (Danielle Panabaker). Indeed, Ms. Helgenberger has much more to do any evening on the crime series CSI than she does here. By contrast, Ms. Panabaker’s Jane gets a jolting twist scene of her own.

But the major female diversion in this mostly all-male spectacle is Demi Moore’s Tracy Atwood, a detective on the trail of a serial killer, though her character gets repeatedly sidetracked from the trail of Mr. Brooks by several plot convolutions that leave her modestly triumphant but still befuddled. The final major character in the melodrama is provided by Dane Cook’s Mr. Smith, a shady character and professional voyeur who witnesses a Brooks murder and photographs it. But instead of using it to blackmail Brooks, or turning it over to the police, he decides to use it as a bizarre incentive for Brooks to take Smith along on his next murder for the sheer turn-on of the spectacle. Brooks and Marshall are especially jovial as they discuss what to do with and about Mr. Smith. The Brooks-Marshall relationship becomes a bit strained at this point, because Mr. Brooks seems to be getting sick to his stomach over his addiction, particularly since he begins suspecting that Jane has inherited his genes and, furthermore, she is already under suspicion by the police for a murder at her school.

The point is that Mr. Brooks is one of the most successfully and most outrageously sick and immoral movies I have ever seen. I suppose it is to its credit that it is as seductive as all get out so that as much as you want to hate it, you end up being reluctantly charmed by its finesse. In some ways, Mr. Brooks may be the ideal entertainment for a period when so many people believe so many other people should be killed as efficiently as possible, and Mr. Brooks is nothing if not efficient.