I don't want to be the sort of person known as a gossip, and I've never been one to spread rumors without being relatively sure what I'm saying is true. This is why I don't have any problem telling all of you about something a friend of mine once told me about Kevin Costner. This friend--who shall be referred to as Bootsy--worked on the Costner film The Postman. According to Bootsy, who was not prone to lies or exaggeration, Costner spent thousands and thousands of dollars on weed, and was stoned during a good portion of the production. This tale, as unbelievable as it may be to some people, goes a long way to explain many of the decisions Costner has made throughout his career, and offers insight as to why, though not intentionally funny, The Postman remains one of the most brilliant comedies of all time.
Personally, I chose to believe the story Bootsy told me, and every time I watch a Costner movie, I wonder if he was stoned at any point either when he first read the script, or while he was actually making it. It is with reasonable confidence that I believe Kevin Costner was high while making Mr. Brooks.
Costner stars as Earl Brooks, a wealthy, well-respected businessman, husband and father who has just been named Man of the Year. But what nobody knows is that Brooks is also the Thumbprint Killer, a notorious serial murderer who has long eluded the police, especially hard-driven detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore). For quite some time Brooks has resisted his urge to kill--which he describes as an addiction not unlike alcoholism--but the temptation is too great, and eventually Brooks gives in to the taunts of Marshall (William Hurt), his nefarious id that encourages him to kill. When Brooks decides to bring the Thumbprint Killer out of retirement, his deadly actions are witnessed by Smith (Dane Cook), a voyeuristic slob who wants to know what it feels like to kill. Smith blackmails Brooks into letting him ride shotgun on one the serial killer's forays into homicide. Complicating matters is Brooks' daughter Jane (Danielle Panabaker), a college drop out who may or may not be a killer in her own right. Meanwhile, Atwood continues to hunt for the Thumbprint Killer, while also dealing with an ugly divorce from her sleazy husband, and contending with the Hangman, a serial killer she earlier sent to prison, but who has now escaped and is looking for revenge. Are you following all of that?
For better or worse (often both at the same time), Mr. Brooks manages to cram in more characters, subplots, twists, and turns within its 120-minute run time than many other films would ever dare to attempt. The result, while being a daring hybrid of silly and stupid, is also, in its own unique way, effectively entertaining. Treading upon well-worn ground of the Hollywood psychological thriller, Mr. Brooks, by comparison to many of the other entries in this genre over the last decade, is not nearly as bad as you might think.
For an actor that enjoys movie star status, Costner has never exactly oozed charisma (a result of too much refer toking, perhaps?); but when his performances work, they really work. His often controlled, monotone persona fits well with the meticulous character of Brooks, who is driven by a detached coolness that seldom allows displays of emotion. And that's what Costner is best at--he makes for a far better cold-blooded killer than he has as a hero. His best scenes in Mr. Brooks are opposite William Hurt, who co-stars as the killer's murderous conscious. Both actors have a great chemistry together that plays in way that makes me think both were stoned will they were filming, but trying their best to play it straight.
Mr. Brooks overflows with characters and subplots, creating the feeling that the film is actually an adaptation of a book. Indeed, Mr. Brooks has the feeling of a film based on a novel by the likes of James Patterson or some other potboiler scribe. Surprisingly, the film is not an adaptation; it's just that writers Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon felt compelled to pack their script with enough material for two films, so that Mr. Brooks is frequently bursting at the seams. And with all of this material, the film is deceptively short on character development. Brooks' desire to kill is never explained as more than an addiction he can't control. Smith's desire to feel what it is like to kill is never explained as more than a sick curiosity. Even Brooks' daughter, who is an integral part of the plot, is just a throwaway character, like everyone in this movie.
Ultimately, whether or not you like Mr. Brooks will be determined by whether or not you are in a forgiving mood. It is not a great film, and some might argue it isn't even good. But it does deliver the sort of lobotomized entertainment that requires so little thought it is easy to be distracted by the bright lights and the ringing bells.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]