Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) is a highly respected businessman and was recently named Portland’s Man of the Year. But the perfect man hides a terrible secret: he’s a serial murderer known as the Thumbprint Killer. He has been attending AA meetings and has kept his addiction to killing under control for two years but he struggles with an alter ego, Marshall (William Hurt), that reappeares and pushes him to kill again. He murders a couple and is seen and photographed by someone who shares his own death and murder fetish. In a parallel story, the police detective investigating the murder (Demi Moore) is having problems of her own. She is going through a messy divorce and a violent criminal who had vowed revenge some years before has escaped from prison and is after her.
Rating: 8 out of 10
I absolutely love it when I throw in a movie that I know nothing about. No preconceived notions, no trailers, no expectations, nothing. It’s very freeing when you can just watch a film unfold. Mr. Brooks turned out to be a film that I enjoyed very much for just that reason.
Costner plays the title character of Earl Brooks, a successful millionaire business owner who is addicted to killing. In fact, he’s the most meticulous killer ever. He has every single detail down pat of how not to get caught by not leaving any bullet fragments, burning all of his clothes, and even vacuuming his murder scenes to not leave any fibers or hairs. All of his killings go unsolved until he makes a fatal error. He forgets to close the shades to the window and someone snaps a picture of his face. That’s all I’m going to tell you. The rest takes you on a very interesting ride with a satisfying conclusion that doesn’t tie up all the loose ends like standard Hollywood fare. Why does this film work when so many other films about serial killers are made and forgotten? Well, it all starts with Costner, who is absolutely brilliant. He gives us such a fleshed out and believable character that we can’t help but think there’s a possibility this guy exists. I was taken so off guard by this film because it was relatively forgotten in its theatrical run and passed by on video. Do yourself a favor and rent it.
8 out 10
I saw this film when it was first released on DVD, kind of on a lark. It happened to be a recent new release at the time on Netflix and all of the television trailers I had seen for it were very vague about exactly who Mr. Brooks was and what the big secret was all about. Like Brian, I went in to this with a clean slate not really knowing anything about the film. Unfortunately I think this hurt its box office numbers, especially considering that this was a summer release up against the second weekend of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and the third weekend of “Shrek The Third.”
The other factor to as why this film was largely ignored by audiences in the Summer of 2007, in my opinion, is because of Kevin Costner, himself. Costner suffers from what I like to call “Huey Lewis Syndrome.” HLS is simple. Ask yourself this question: If you were to see Huey Lewis walking down the street would you say, “Hey, that’s Huey Lewis, one of the greatest pop-rock icons of the 1980’s!” or would you say “Hey, isn’t that one of my Dad’s friends?” That’s the problem Costner has. Hollywood is doing a very good job of focusing all of their energies on attracting younger audiences with popcorn films and in doing this, they are making stars out of out of young, hip actors (often with mediocre talent). I don’t really have a problem with popcorn films or these young stars, but I do have a problem with great actors and great stories being pushed aside for aesthetics.
Taking this a step farther, Costner’s affliction, HLS, is truly what makes this film work. Kevin Costner is the guy next-door in this film and you have great sympathy and empathy for him because you see yourself in him. We all have our personal demons. Brooks’ demons manifest themselves in his alter-ego Marshall (William Hurt) but he is very much aware of these demons and like the rest of us, is doing his best in his daily life to protect those he cares about from being hurt by them. The sub-plot involving his daughter deals with an issue every parent dreads: the fear of your kids making the same mistakes you did. What’s particularly interesting about Costner’s Brooks is that unlike other serial killers, he’s not a sociopath. His murders are a compulsion, part of a chemical imbalance… an addiction (read: disease) which is why the metaphor of the AA meetings for him is so brilliant. This is so well-written that you find yourself not only sympathizing with Brooks (who’s also OCD, as well) and not wanting him to get caught, but you actually find yourself rationalizing his behavior and like him, you get a sense of cold detachment to the victims as he murders them.
What really affirms this rationalization is Dane Cook’s character, Mr. Smith, the peeping tom who happens to catch Brooks in the act on film at one of his murders and shows up in his office with a proposition: he wants to accompany Brooks on his next murder and basically become an apprentice. Smith, unlike Brooks, is a complete sociopath and it bears itself out continuously throughout the film.