Original Review Date: 6/20/2007
One of the better films I’ve seen this year and a great performance by Kevin Costner. In a rare dark performance, Costner raises what might have been a normal crime movie with a twist involving his id into a superior human horror film. Where this movie succeeds is that you care about the film’s sociopathic anti-hero, Earl Brooks, much in the same way we care about Richard B. Riddick in Pitch Black. Mr. Brooks is a film that has two story lines. One of those storylines succeeds while the other is shaky, eventually coming into its own but never reaching the first’s stature, even after the two storylines intertwine. That weaker storyline belongs to Detective Atwood (Demi Moore), who offers an effective performance but whose character is never given the room to breathe that Deputy United States Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tom Lee Jones) was given in The Fugitive.
When the antagonist is handled intelligently and is given intelligence, in most cases it benefits the film. One example of this is Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs while another is John Doe in Se7en. This is the mental situation with the main character in Mr. Brooks though this film is in no way on par with the two aforementioned movies. Mr. Brooks is good but it’s not that good. It does hold a minor position in their league though and approaches the level of satisfaction you have with those films. There is no great puzzle in Mr. Brooks as in Silence or Se7en but there are a few tiny ones that intrigue.
From its adverts, Mr. Brooks seems like a simple cat and mouse movie between a killer and a detective but it actually has multiple layers, one involving Earl Brook’s daughter, the second involving the witness to one of Brook’s crimes and the third involving a criminal Detective Atwood sent to prison who has escaped. The second layer is definitely the most effective storyline, while the first is the second most effective and the third is the third most effective storyline but is more entertaining than the first. I was very surprised at some of the story ingredients included: a box maker, a millionaire and steroid abuser and how they were integrated into the plot and nine times out of ten they worked. I’d like to go in depth about them but that would spoil them for anyone who hasn’t seen this film. Also this film has multiple special treats in its third act, including a Heat moment that would make even Michael Mann smirk.
Let me not forget the wonderful performance by Earl Brook’s id, Marshall (William Hurt). This is a part of Earl Brook’s mind that has been given its own name, physical appearance and personality traits that Brook’s identifies with, laughs with, plans with, a part of his brain. This is much like the situation with The Narrator’s mind in Fight Club when it came to Tyler Durden except in Mr. Brooks, Earl is fully aware that Marshall is a figment of his imagination but is nevertheless a welcome part of him. The difference in Fight Club is that Tyler’s army is fully aware of The Narrator’s splintered personality where as in Mr. Brooks, no one is aware of Mr. Brook’s or of Marshall’s existence. That is what is so great about when Earl and Marshall talk to each other. Brook’s is basically talking and arguing with himself about his wishes, fears and desires.
If you are a horror, crime or thriller lover, director Bruce A Evans’ Mr. Brooks is the film for you, especially if the disappointing quality of Hostel II, SAW III and the short-lived theatrical run of Grindhouse are still vivid in your mind.