Posted by: gdevi | August 13, 2009

Movie Review: Mr. Brooks (2007)

Mr. Brooks directed by Bruce Evans (who wrote the screenplay for Stand By Me) is a very good Hollywood commercial movie.  Most Hollywood movies are about killing, often wanton killing at that, and Mr. Brooks is about killing as well, but with a twist; it is about kids who think killing is great fun, probably from video games and such, and nurtured inside a culture and civilization that is built on war, and imagine their shock when they are killed. This movie has one of the best screenplays I have seen in a while; it is a very substantial movie with many many things happening in the plot, and the director and screenwriter (Raynold Gideon) never drop the ball. Very nice work. Kevin Costner plays Earl Brooks, a successful Oregon businessman who is voted “Man of the Year,” loving husband and father who is also a serial murderer addicted to killing. But like all informed addicts, he knows he is an addict and he wants to quit his addiction. He is enrolled in AA where he simply introduces himself as “I am Earl Brooks. I am an addict.” An addiction is an addiction, right? He chants the Serenity Prayer often; he really wants to quit killing. The movie opens with him being felicitated as Oregon’s Man of the Year and the whole celebration makes him want to go out and kill, which he does; he breaks into the apartment of a couple and shoots them while they are having sex. The couple likes to leave their window blinds open while having sex and sure enough a couple of days later Mr. Brooks is visited in his office by a Mr. Smith played beautifully by Dane Cook with the right amount of cluelessness we see in kids who are born rich maintained rich–sexually mature children–and who has never understood the value of life (which is inherently valueless–which is why the military can go out and kill with such calmness–they know this–it is what value you attach to it that makes it valuable). Mr. Smith has been taking pictures of the couple for a while and now has the pictures of Mr. Brooks killing them as well. What he wants is surprising though and this is where the movie departs from the standard Hollywood fare: Mr. Smith does not want to extort money from Mr. Brooks. He wants Mr. Brooks to take him along for the next killing. He thinks killing is great fun; he loved watching Mr. Brooks kill the two people. Mr. Brooks tries to tell him that he is an addict and that he does not like killing and is in the process of quitting killing. Mr. Smith won’t take “no” for an answer. He wants to go along for another killing; if not, he will turn Mr. Brooks over to the police. Exploit an addict. This is where the movie becomes about Mr. Smith and not about Mr. Brooks. It is a fantastic plot–Mr. Brooks has an alter ego, or a brain played menacingly by William Hurt who is a terrific actor; a detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore) going through an acrimonious divorce but whose subplot is woven beautifully into the main plot with Mr. Brooks; Mr. Brooks’s daughter, a very scary young girl Jane (Danielle Panabaker); and an escaped felon and his accomplice. The upshot of this complicated plot held up beautifully throughout the movie is  that Mr. Brooks owns up all killings; he does not want anyone else to kill anyone; he kills for them. There is a beautiful moment in the movie when his teenage daughter announces that she is pregnant and wants an abortion; Mr. Brooks vehemently opposes it. This is not a pro-life argument; but Death saying “no” to that particular death. The movie turns almost allegorical at this point. Mr. Brooks is Death, the way you see Death in The Seventh Seal; Death as a karmic act, strictly amoral. You could be dancing, shooting meth, having sex, walking along–death will come to you. I have never seen a Hollywood movie do this before. I was never a big fan of Kevin Costner; somehow his movies have never struck  a chord in me, but Costner is good in this movie.  Demi Moore’s role is probably the thinnest role in the plot but even that character works. I am always so pleased when I see young actors like Dane Cook and James Franco do good on screen; supporting but memorable roles. A good commercial movie; see it if you haven’t.

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