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Mr. Brooks

Mr. Brooks Poster

Kevin Costner turns in a stellar performance as Mr. Brooks, a successful businessman, philanthropist, husband and doting father. Mr. Brooks has a secret life, however. He's also a serial killer. After being lauded by the larger community for his philanthropy and named 'Man of the Year' he gets in his car with his lovely wife Emma (Marg Helgenberger, largely unused here) and a man appears in the back seat. The man (named Marshall, played perfectly by William Hurt) remarks that what Brooks really wants to do is check out the dancers. Mr. Brooks is addicted to murder, you see, and Marshall is his evil side, and he wants a fix.

Brooks says, "I haven't done that in over two years, and I'm not starting again." He then performs his mantra, known as the 'Serenity Prayer':

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Marshall lounges in the back seat, sighing, and says, "Why? Why do you fight it so hard?" His wife never notices Marshall or her husband's responses -- Marshall is the devil on Mr. Brooks' shoulder, and only he can see him.

Mr. Brooks says to his wife, "You know, I didn't really care for the dessert back at the gala -- up for some ice cream?" They share a sundae together, Mr. Brooks and his wife, while Marshall stands apart, looking up into the window of a dance studio, watching the women prance and spin.

That night Mr. Brooks tells his wife that he's going to go to his pottery studio for a while before bed. Mr. Brooks' studio has everything he needs; complete with a kiln for firing the crockery. Director Bruce A. Evans perfectly captures the creepiness here as we see Mr. Brooks' studio for what it really is, a convenient place for a serial killer to plan -- and destroy evidence in the kiln. A closet is filled with dark suits, all the same. Mr. Brooks plans his next murder, the murder of two people from the dance studio.

He succeeds in the murder, but the couple he murders (while in flagrante delicto) are exhibitionists. Marshall exclaims after their murder: "What pigs! They have sex with their curtains wide open?" Mr. Brooks closes the curtains and is captured on film by a peeper in a nearby building. This peeper, a Mr. Smith (played perfectly by Dane Cook) arrives at Mr. Brooks' office and shows him the photos. Throughout the encounter Marshall provides a running commentary, a killer's assessment of Mr. Smith -- can they kill him, is he trustworthy?

It turns out that Mr. Smith doesn't want money -- he got such a thrill from seeing the couple murdered that he wants to do a 'ride along' with Mr. Brooks on his next murder. Through all of this Mr. Brooks genuinely wants to stop killing, but cannot because he is addicted to it. He goes so far as to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Marshall mocks him: "You are such a hypocrite. If you were really honest you would say, "Hi, my name is Earl, and I killed two people two days ago."

Mr. Smith wants to murder someone himself, or at least witness Mr. Brooks do it. They go on a few expeditions but Brooks is too patient for Mr. Smith.

Further complicating the situation is Detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore) who has been tracing the Thumbprint Killer (Brooks dips his victim's finger in their own blood and leaves a bloodprint) for years, and says, "This guy has been gone for two years -- I was hoping he was either caught and serving time on a lesser charge or dead." Atwood becomes convinced that Mr. Smith saw something the night of the murders.

Will Mr. Brooks be able to manage so many conflicting objectives? He researches Atwood and finds her quite honorable and noble. He finds Mr. Smith to be hopeless and stupid, but possibly useful. As ever, Marshall is available for useful advice. And through it all Mr. Brooks desperately wants it to all stop, to stop murdering, to be free of his addiction. He imagines the shame and horror that his wife and daughter would experience should they ever discover his secret, and so plans a way to end his own suffering.

Surprisingly non-violent, Mr. Brooks is a great little thriller that received little notice, in this viewers opinion. The murders are horrible, but there's no sadism or torture porn element to them whatsoever. The film focuses more on the interior and exterior struggles of the eponymous anti-hero.

William Hurt as Marshall, the personification of Mr. Brooks' evil side is shades of the mob boss he played in A History of Violence; relaxed, cool, straight-talking evil. The fact that only the audience (and Mr. Brooks) can hear Marshall makes for some very interesting dramatic possibilities, which director Bruce A. Evans executes beautifully. For example, when Brooks' bratty, spoiled 19-year-old daughter returns unannounced from college at his business, she says that 'school isn't for her.' She wants to work for her daddy. Marshall says, "She's not telling you everything... she's holding something back." Marshall allows Mr. Brooks to be the sweet, kind man that he wants to be -- but exacts a price.

Demi Moore is simply too good-looking to be wholly believable as a tough-as-nails detective who tracks down murderers. She looks like she belongs on Law & Order, or some other generic 'cop drama' but doesn't completely convince. Her action scenes are exciting but feel tacked on by the director to make her role more believable. Her most ridiculous scene is when she confronts Mr. Smith; she's sure that he is withholding information, and she tries to intimidate him. She ends the scene by huskily saying, "Later gator."

Dane Cook, however, is absolutely believable as a creepy wannabe killer. And his ride-alongs with Mr. Brooks allow for some character development, in which Brooks lays down one of his many rules: "Never, ever kill someone you know." Brooks' patience and deliberation leading up to a murder maddens Mr. Smith, who behaves like a junkie.

The best scenes in the film are between Marshall and Brooks (Hurt and Costner). Their banter back and forth show Brooks to be a genuinely conflicted person. Costner makes for a surprisingly good villain. Perhaps because he is so well known for playing heroic roles (Dances With Wolves, Waterworld, Robin Hood) that this role works so well for him. The joy of this film is trying to discern who is more real, more indicative of his character: Marshall or Mr. Brooks?

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