NetFlix Review #24: Mr. Brooks
I'd been intrigued to see this for a while, as I'd heard from many reputable sources that it was bugnuts insane. Was I disappointed? Well, let's list a few things that appear in this film: Kevin Costner as a fuddy duddy daddy who is also a serial killer with a distancing psychotic break in the form of William Hurt. Costner has a daughter who may have inherited his "serial killer" gene. Dane Cook is a photographer who snaps Costner in the midst of a murder and blackmails him not for money, but to follow him around on a kill, basically like a ride-a-long with a sheriff, but with a serial murderer. Demi Moore is a tough-as-nails cop who is also set to inherit millions of dollars. She's also going through a divorce. AND chasing ANOTHER serial killer. So the movie does indeed have a lot going for it. But is it good?
Well, it kind of depends on your definition of good. While all of that insanity previously listed does occur in the film, it also never flies off the rails into total crazytown. Which is... good? Everything I want to praise the movie for, I also hold against it. Costner actually gives an interesting, underplayed performance, really trying to find a way to bring together the daffy affability of a man-of-the-year, doting father and good husband with a man who has committed compulsory murder for decades. William Hurt definitely chews scenery as usual, but given his character and the story around him, really not as much as he could have. Dane Cook gets his super-sleeze down pretty well. Demi Moore plays her icy detective in her very 90s thriller style, which I kind of dig, I'm not going to lie. Basically, everyone's acting very professional, and I kept praying for someone to go bonzo.
The movie's main problem, outside of no one going insane to please my personal whims, is that it's packing in way, way, WAY too much stuff. Any one of the five or six major threads of the movie could have carried its own feature. Particularly ill-served is the plotline that posed the most interesting questions, the daughter who seems to have possibly inherited daddy's penchant for killing people. When Costner finds out about daddy's little criminal liability he becomes conflicted about whether to let her go to jail, to try and help her, does he confront her about it or hope that this isn't what it looks like? There's room here to explore how behavior is passed from generation to generation, the trauma of parents letting go of their children, the boundaries of familial love and responsibility, on and on. However, the few of these issues that actually get addressed in the film get paid lip service, and the whole setup is used largely as just another link the chain of events. Costner's character is given a lot of fun, interesting touches (I particularly like how he attends AA meetings when the urge to kill comes back to him because, well, there's unfortunately no Serial Killer's Anonymous) but nothing seems to go much of anywhere. They've set up some interesting dilemmas that could turn into fascinating character examinations, but instead fall back into the old thriller playground of "how's he going to get out of this mess?!?"
Not that some of that isn't entertaining. I enjoyed Costner's cat-and-mouse-esque game with Dane Cook, and the payoff, although fairly predictable, is a fun bit. It would have been nice if Cook hadn't simply been a base-level cretin, though. If Costner's serial-killer can have some dimensions, why not the serial-killer-wannabe? What if Costner's dilemma wasn't simply how to get out of this quandary, but how to deal with someone he may see parts of himself in? I suppose that's why we ALSO have the daughter character, but what if we just collapsed some of these things together? Maybe? Movie? What's that? You're still going to be five movies at the same time? Fair enough.
The team behind the writing and directing of the movie is also the team behind such fair as Jungle 2 Jungle, Cutthroat Island, Stand By Me and Starman. I watched the eight minute feature on the DVD about the writing of the movie (how could I not?) and things began to make a bit more sense when the duo began talking about how they were a bit tired of writing family fare and decided they wanted to make an "adult" movie, and what's more adult than serial murder? The movie does have a feel of coming from people who had been playing in the kiddie pool for a while trying out the adult toys. For instance, in the murder where Dane Cook's character spots Costner's, Costner comes in on two people having sex and shoots them both in the head. At a couple of points throughout the movie they flash back to this scene, but most particularly the moment in the scene where you see the woman, large breasts a-wobbling, screaming and then the splatter of gore as the bullet enters her head. It's gratuitious the first time you see it, but we are making a movie about a serial killer, so all right. But then the third or fourth time you see it you really have to start wondering. However, knowing what I know now about the production team I can see them thinking, "Oh man, this is WILD! This is so NASTY! We've NEVER done anything like this before! Show it again! Show it again! People won't BELIEVE it!" They're like a kid finding a condom in their parents' bedroom and showing it ecstatically to everyone at school. "Do you know what THIS IS????" This might also explain the cramming of every idea they appeared to have had into the movie, and why everything, outside of frequent cutaways to a naked woman being shot, is so restrained. "We're making an ADULT movie, so let's rain it in, people. We don't want things to get too wacky, wacky is for kids, and this may be the only chance we get to really go dark, so let's do it right."
This is all speculation, of course, but I cannot help it, as one of the main conundrums of this really odd movie is, frankly, why isn't it weirder? Has anyone else seen this? I earnestly would love to hear some thoughts on this one. Also, anyone beside me think this movie should have ended about 45 seconds earlier? Those of you who have seen it will know what I'm talking about. Weigh in!
NetFlix Review #24: Mr. Brooks