Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mr. Brooks

Year 9, Day 172 - 6/21/17 - Movie #2,667

BEFORE: There were probably a lot of ways I could have gone after "Bobby", with that large all-star cast, or so you might think, but with my options slowly dwindling down, I really only wanted to use that film to link here, with Demi Moore carrying over into this thriller.  From here I could link to another film with Kevin Costner, and his co-star tomorrow leads me to another film, and a co-star in THAT film leads me to another film, and so on.  This will get me to a block of recent animated films that I can watch on Netflix, starting early next week, and this in turn will get me to July, and just a few links away from "Spider-Man: Homecoming".  Gotta get that new Spider-Man film in before I head off to Comic-Con...

THE PLOT: A psychological thriller about a man who is sometimes controlled by his murder-loving alter ego.

AFTER: Kevin Costner as a serial killer?  As a concept, that seems like it should have been marked "dead on arrival".  Costner's played every hero from Elliot Ness to Robin Hood, from the good cowboy in "Unforgiven" to the solider-turned-Native American in "Dances With Wolves".  He was the family man in "Field of Dreams" that just wanted to build a baseball field and have a catch with his dad, for chrissakes.  You know what was the perfect role for him?  Jonathan Kent in the recent Superman movies - older guy, midwestern values, the guy who gave Superman his moral compass.  I didn't see him as Pa Kent at first, but thinking about it later, that casting was a slam-dunk.

I mean, I get that an actor is an actor, collectively they're just like a bunch of trained monkeys who producers can count on to show up, read their lines, and not put up too much of a fuss on the set, or later when they have to talk to the press.  But you'd like to think that the top actors build up some kind of reputation, or have some kind of overarching theme when you look at their entire body of work.  Maybe Costner got sick of playing white hats and wanted to see if he could stretch himself and play a villain for once...

There are two conceits here in the portrayal of Mr. Brooks, the serial killer.  One is that when he talks to the side of him that wants to kill, that side is portrayed by a different actor who appears in the scene as a character named "Marshall", only no other characters can see or hear Marshall.  When Brooks speaks to Marshall, the audience is supposed to understand that represents the conversation inside Brooks' head, the one he's having with his dark side.  It's a bit of a Tyler Durden situation, except we're told at the start that Marshall is not real.  He's part of Brooks, but he doesn't look like Brooks.  I suppose they could have had Costner play a dual role, like Kyle MacLachlan is currently doing on "Twin Peaks", playing both Dale Cooper and his doppelgänger, but they went another way with the idea here.

The other conceit is that being a serial killer is equated with addiction, Brooks goes to A.A. meetings and doesn't exactly say what he's addicted to when he introduces himself.  (The poor crowd in that church basement, they don't know who they're clapping for...). I'm not sure that I agree with this, because even if serial killers enjoy what they do, I'm not sure that they're compelled to do it - that they just can't get through the day without it, like some people with alcohol or drugs.  Isn't it a cop-out to suggest that they're driven by addiction, that they couldn't stop killing, even if they wanted to?  And then there's the irony of a serial killer reciting "The Serenity Prayer" - so is killing something that they can change, or something they have to accept that they can't change?

Plus, it doesn't come close to answering the question "Why does he kill?"  "Because he's addicted" is not a serious answer.  And if you're going to blame Marshall, his murderous side, that's not really an explanation, it's just a manifestation of the urges in his head - why is Marshall there in the first place? I have no idea.  And a big NITPICK POINT to me: if he's attending addiction meetings, shouldn't he be going through the 12-step program to try to stay "clean"?  Wouldn't this involve steps like making reparations to the people that he's hurt?  This not only seems out of line with being a serial killer, we never see it take place, and it doesn't seem like he's even interested in the concept.

As if Mr. Brooks life as the meticulously neat "thumbprint killer" isn't complicated enough, he also has to contend with someone who witnessed his latest murder who wants to become an apprentice of sorts, and a daughter who has just left college and returned home, right after a brutal murder occurred on campus, so he has to wonder if the apple didn't fall far from the proverbial tree.  Even when they're grown up, it seems like parents are always cleaning up after their kids' mistakes, am I right?

Oh, and he learns that there is a clever detective on his trail, but she's got problems of her own, including an escaped convict on the loose looking for revenge, and a husband filing for divorce, trying to take all of her money.  Can the cat stay focused enough to win this little game of cat-and-mouse, or will the murderous mouse figure out a way to point the finger at someone else?

Also starring Kevin Costner (last seen in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"), William Hurt (last seen in "Vantage Point"), Dane Cook (last heard in "Planes: Fire & Rescue"), Marg Helgenberger (last seen in "Always"), Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Danielle Panabaker, Lindsay Crouse (last seen in "Slap Shot"), Jason Lewis, Matt Schulze, Reiko Aylesworth, Aisha Hinds, Traci Dinwiddie.

RATING: 5 out of 10 vacuum cleaner bags

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