Kevin Costner is Mr. Brooks, successful businessman, family man, and the Portland Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year. WIlliam Hurt is his sinister, deadly alter ego, Marshall. And Demi Moore is — in another movie altogether, playing homicide detective Tracy Atwood. We’ll get back to her later.
Mr. Brooks (and yes, his name is Earl) and his lovely wife Emma (Marg Helgenberger, and thank god they didn’t cast some ridiculously young woman forced to pretend she’s old enough to be the mother of a college student) live the usual life of the moderately wealthy, with Mrs. Brooks blissfully unaware that her loving husband is actually the notorious Thumbprint Killer. They always are.
Mr. Brooks has sometimes fairly long conversations with his other self, Marshall, but everyone seems blissfully unaware of those also, because this isn’t a comedy. William Hurt does laugh rather a lot, but not at things that would normally be considered funny by a sane person. Marshall is a lot of things to Mr. Brooks — best friend, confidante, fount of useful information — but mainly he’s the little voice you sometimes hear about on the news that tells serial killers to kill.
Mr. Brooks tries to resist, he does. He goes to AA meetings (a breach of protocol, of course, but there isn’t a Serial Killers Anonymous, so he had to make do), recites the Serenity Prayer over and over, and swears to both himself and Marshall that he’ll never kill again. But he gives in. They always do.
|Don’t look behind you! William Hurt just might be there…|
After being clean, so to speak, for two years, he kills again, with Marshall egging him on. That’s when everything goes wrong. Suddenly the police aren’t too far away from him, he’s got a slightly geeky voyeur blackmailing his way into all Mr. Brooks’ secrets, and William Hurt always there, hurling insults and generally being his evil genius. I might turn into a serial killer myself, if I had William Hurt constantly telling me to be one. Oh, and his teenage daughter shows up, having dropped out of college and gotten herself pregnant. Even serial killers have some normal problems. Sort of.
Meanwhile, over in the other movie, Demi “I wanna be an action star” Moore is getting divorced from her slimy second husband, who wants millions from her very considerable wealth, chasing down escaped serial killer “The Hangman” (mean and scary, but not like any serial killer I’ve ever heard about), and getting run over and shot at a lot, to prove she can handle it. (Actually, given how many serial killers Oregon apparently has, they do need tough cops.) Oh, and sometimes, when she can squeeze it in to her busy schedule, she dreams of catching the elusive Thumbprint Killer. But basically all her scenes could have been edited into a different movie, one with lots of blood and car chases and shooting.
You can tell they tried to integrate them — Mr. Brooks’ movie gets a lot bloodier at the end, and there’s a token scene where he calls Demi — but honestly, they’re two different films stuck together for the most part. One is a psychological thriller, a look at the twisted psyche of a demented killer, and the other is an unfocused sort of drama about your standard homicide cop with too much emotional baggage. She doesn’t even seem to be a good homcide detective — I mean, they talk about how many killers she’s caught, and she gets all the intuitive leaps of logic, but considering her James Bond-ish, threaten-everyone-until-they-break style, I never really believed her as a successful police officer in any kind of real world. She acted the part as written quite well, really, but sadly, it just wasn’t written quite well.
Demi Moore’s movie gets two idols — it’s entertaining in parts, but too thrown together and too predictable overall. Kevin Costner’s (and William Hurt’s) movie gets three and a quarter. (That averages out to two and three-eighths, if you’re curious, but doing that didn’t seem quite fair.) It would have been three and a half for the boys, but they just had to start throwing in lots of blood, which kind of spoiled the mood. But there were some nice little twists and good acting all around, which was a relief. Sometimes Costner seems like a really good actor, and other times it just pains me to watch him, but here he was definitely the former. And someone had a lot of fun on the camera work, playing with reflections of Marshall, one persona in the shadow, the other in the light, that sort of thing. I just hope the DVD release has the option for the Demi-free version.