Mr. Brooks gives Kevin Costner the chance to be bad
Kevin Costner has made a career of playing the good guy. But in Mr. Brooks, he trades the twinkle in his eye for a little madness, playing a well-liked businessman who on his free time hunts down and kills unsuspecting couples.
Costner’s role is multidimensional, as he tries to balance his public life and family—his daughter returns home from school with more than a few questions as to why she dropped out—with the relationship he has with his alter ego, Marshall (played by William Hurt).
The complexity in the film is just right: There are a number of plotlines that intertwine and eventually come together to make sense in the end. And perhaps more surprising, especially in recent cinema, is the fact that no part of the film feels extraneous. The story moves along a little slowly, but director Bruce A. Evans makes every frame count.
Earl Brooks is a businessman who at the beginning of the film accepts an award for Portland’s Man of the Year. We soon meet Marshall, Earl’s darker personality, who pokes and prods until Earl finally gives in to a little extracurricular outing.
It’s clear that Earl has killed before, as he is extremely well-prepared. But this time he slips up—he inadvertently leaves the drapes open, and a nutsy voyeur known only as Mr. Smith (Dane Cook) finds himself in a position to blackmail Earl into showing him his craft. Det. Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore), has been following the Thumbprint Killer (aka Brooks), and has a hunch about his slip-up.
It’s refreshing to see Moore in a role that suits her. She gets to play a tough cop who loves her job even though it quite often puts her in the line of fire. The nice part is she’s smart—she isn’t reduced to showing her assets. One of the plotlines that in any other movie would have been rendered irrelevant involves her husband, who is out for money in a divorce settlement. The other features Earl’s daughter. But it all comes together in the end.
Evans, whose only other directorial outing was Kuffs, has put together quite the smart thriller with Mr. Brooks. The only actor who doesn’t really stand on his own is Cook, in his dramatic debut. It’s hard to take the stand-up comedian seriously as a deranged wannabe murderer, though he does have his shining moments.