Until "Mr. Brooks," there wasn't an occasion when a young male would rather watch Kevin Costner strut around the screen in a bad movie than Demi Moore. There still shouldn't be: She plays a gorgeous cop in the movie, and he plays Mr. Brooks, an extremely careful and almost obsessively compulsive serial killer. She should be a welcome respite from the bloodshed in the film; and yet all I wanted to see was Costner’s aging mug.
This sad, sad state of affairs exists because Costner and William Hurt together portray a sociopath so interesting that you don’t really want the movie to veer away from them at any point. I mention both men because Hurt plays what amounts to Mr. Brooks’s imaginary friend, Marshall. Mr. Brooks is addicted to killing and he knows it is wrong, but Marshall just keeps on goading him to do it. However, Marshall is far from the traditional split personality character in most suspense films: Marshall and Mr. Brooks never switch places, there’s no internal battle for supremacy and the former isn’t used for a cheap twist ending. Aside from prompting Mr. Brooks to kill people, Marshall is an incredibly sympathetic character, offering Mr. Brooks sound advice, like any best friend would. It’s an amazingly cool dynamic that Costner and Hurt play perfectly.
That’s why it is so upsetting that the rest of the film doesn’t do the character justice. Instead of focusing on the trials and tribulations of our poor Mr. Brooks — as he drags along Mr. Smith (Dane Cook), a man who saw him commit his latest murder as the Thumb Print Killer and now wants to learn how to do the same — the film jumps back and forth between that plot line and one focusing on Det. Tracey Atwood (Moore), the cop who is on the case of the Thumb Print Killer.
Instead of an interesting game of cat and mouse, the subplot focuses on Atwood’s divorce from her money-grubbing husband and another, far more boring, serial killer that is after her. This is not to say that the main story line, about Mr. Smith and Mr. Brooks, is anything but slick and cool. Cook does a decent job of basically playing himself, but needs a few more dramatic roles under his belt before anyone is going to seriously call him an actor; despite this, the interplay between his sniveling Mr. Smith and the collected Mr. Brooks/Marshall is persistently creepy. The idea that someone wants to become a killer sounds interesting — but it just isn’t handled right.
In a film about a killer who does everything neatly and perfectly so as not to get caught, you would think the filmmakers would take a hint and not be so sloppy themselves. Hopefully, "Mr. Brooks" will get a sequel of some sort where a character as dynamic as the film's namesake can actually shine.