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MOVIE REVIEW:Mr. Brooks
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The sea change that American popular culture has undergone since the
beginning of the George W. Bush era is the transmutation from the
cynicism of the 1990s to the promotion of heart-warming family values.
The former decade was characterized by the "Sleeping With the Enemy"
genre, and the featuring of the father as the incestuous rapist. At
that time, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger represented the
dissenting minority voice. Now, it looks like the latter has become the
main current. Almost every movie plot has to add some flavor of family
values and devote some footage to father-daughter or father-son
affection, from the anti-terrorist yarn "24" to Indiana Jones and The
Mummy sequels, or even "Kung Fu Panda," not to mention "John Q,"
"Pursuit of Happiness" and "Night at the Museum." The movie "Mr.
Brooks" is no exception, nonetheless it introduces a cognitive
dissonance into the encomium of family values. Brooks, a murder-addict,
realizes that his pregnant daughter Jane has also committed murder on
her college campus and considers letting her go to jail to nip the "bad
seed" in the bud. Yet, for once not urging on by his evil doppelgänger
Marshall, Brooks uses a fake identity, flies to her daughter's campus,
and commits a similar murder to make it look like a serial killer is
still at large, thereby getting Jane off the hook. For Brooks, killing
has become an addiction, but he does not wants to get caught and brings
shame to his family, so he concocts a plan to disappear, and it is then
that his perverse fan "Mr. Smith" is factored in. Brooks explains his
plan to Smith, who agrees to kill and bury Brooks to make him
disappear. Brooks, however, has a Plan B up his sleeve: At the point of
facing death, he realizes that he wants to see his unborn grandchild,
and thus turns on his would-be murderer. It is hard to tell whether
family values have become so pervasive as to infiltrate the serial
killer genre as well or "Mr. Brooks" is simply turning family values
into black humor.
Mr. Brooks strikes me as a movie in which the makers enjoy toying
around with ideas and plot points to make something interesting but
with little regard for credibility. The movie is never dull I'll say
that much, and though it would be a stretch to call it original, the
material feels fresh to me. Even so, something essential is missing. Mr
Brooks is too forcefully plotted for its our good (or the viewer's). It
mistakes coincidence/contrivance for cleverness, and the end result
does not impress, but to a certain degree it entertains.
Earl Brooks is one of Portland's most valued businessman and also one
of its most dangerous psychos. On the night that he commits his first
murder in two years he discovers the next day that someone has
photographed him in the act. When the black mailer shows up the next
day, he asks to be a part of Brook's murder spree.
Mr. Brooks' subconscious comes in the form of William Hurt, going by
the name Marshall, who is pretty much everywhere Brooks is, but nobody
else sees him. Even when there is a third party present (and this is
the neat bit) he/she is unaware that Brooks and Marshall talk to each
other. The movie tries to find a balance of exposition between Brooks
the killer, and Brooks the human being (husband/father/success story).
Also, as a parallel story (although I'm not convinced it works) we have
Detective Tracy Atwood investigating the latest murder, and portrayed
cluelessly by Demi Moore. Uncertain of whether to play the role strait
or with a bit of spin (like Willem Dafoe in Boondock Saints) Moore is
just sounds lost.
Kevin Costner here is not quite as strong as his previous Open Range,
but taking into account that he has not given one good performance
between 1990 and 2002, Mr. Brooks is actually worth something.
Mr. Brooks is almost a good film. Its feet are on the ground, but its
head is not. What we get is a heavy psychological drama, that relies on
intensity to justify the use of a shaky plot. I felt it could've been a
bit better, but watch it and decide for yourself.
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