Wednesday, November 07, 2007
As Mr. Brooks, Kevin Costner creates a detailed, sophisticated, multilayered characterization of a serial killer. William Hurt is truly brilliant as the embodiment of the voice in Costner's head, guiding him through the killings.
In a testament to the richness of Hurt's acting, the co-writers, Bruce A. Evans & Raynold Gideon, comment on the DVD that, with every line, Hurt created more of a fully realized world than they even knew was in the words they wrote.
Marg Helgenberger as Costner's wife, and especially Danielle Panabaker as his daughter, were excellent. I was also happy to see Reiko Aylesworth (one of my favorite characters/actresses from 24) making a nice little appearance.
The film would be famously great were it not for one central problem. There is a major plot element which involves an "apprentice," played by Dane Cook, a would-be killer who blackmails Costner into taking him on as an intern in serial killing. (It feels silly even to type that here.) It is hard to allocate blame for this nonsense amongst the various elements of the film: the conception of this plot idea, the casting, the direction, the writing, or the acting; but the whole sequence sinks the film into patent absurdity.
Often when one aspect of a movie fails completely, listening to the DVD commentary gives the clue to why it failed: the commentary never addresses the problem issue, suggesting the writer and director never realized there was something that needed to be done.
Here, according to the DVD commentary, the character, played by Cook was originally going to be played by Zach Braff. This might be a clue, namely that they never made the adjustments to the style of the new actor. It might also be a clue to a different cause of the problem, namely that the character and his story were misconceived from the beginning. Surprisingly, the writer and director seem well pleased by both the actor and this whole portion of the film.
The writers also comment on the DVD that they consider Mr. Brooks -- a serial killer -- to be a moral person because he has an addiction: he loves his family, and he truly wants to stop killing, even though he has an addiction to murder. (Unlike other serial killer "heroes, " by the way, he does not even make a pretense of killing only people that -- for some imagined reason -- "deserve" to be killed.) I don't agree. History teaches us that good family men can be vicious killers. He is an evil, dangerous man. He is a sick, evil, dangerous man. (He can not even claim an insanity defense. He knows that what he is doing is wrong.) The fact that this is a story about an amoral or immoral man does not prevent the story from being interesting or well made. There can be great literature about evil people, even if they "get away with it." But the character is still evil and immoral. It's not necessary to defend the character.
The DVD commentary also suggests that the creative team is considering a sequel. Given the terrific acting by the main characters, they could get it all right the second time.