Image courtesy of impawards.com
Bruce A. Evans
Kevin Costner……….Mr. Earl Brooks
Demi Moore……….Detective Tracy Atwood
Dane Cook……….Mr. Smith
Marg Helgenberger……….Emma Brooks
Danielle Panabaker……….Jane Brooks
Aisha Hinds……….Nancy Hart
Lindsay Crouse……….Captain Lister
Jason Lewis……….Jesse Vialo
Reiko Aylesworth……….Jesse’s Lawyer
Matt Schulze……….Thorton Meeks
Michael Cole……….Atwood’s Lawyer
It would be difficult to choose the most pleasing surprise in Mr. Brooks. It is heartening to see Kevin Costner and Demi Moore shift into high gear as if neither one of them had been basically off the radar for more than five years. The plot is chock full of twists and turns with nearly all plot elements resolved by the film’s end. The schizophrenic premise urges viewers to sympathize and loathe Costner’s Earl Brooks in equal parts. These facts alone should already entice audiences to foray into some summer counter-programming. However, where Mr. Brooks is truly brilliant is in making the audience forget that Dane Cook is a sophomoric, narcissistic comedian first and an actor second. Cook benefits from his surroundings and therefore is able to help elevate the film as a whole.
Along with William Hurt (as Brooks’ dark side, Marshall) the four leads are given superbly written characters to work with. Yet, Cook as Mr. Smith clearly had to work the hardest to get such a tricky role on the same level as the rest of his superiors. It would have been easy to forgive Cook had he been out-acted and thus he deserves that much more credit for having risen to the challenge. That is not to say that there are not lapses where the writing fails to keep Cook’s over the top stage presence from emerging.
Fortunately, Mr. Smith, like Cook, is clearly on the edge of sanity himself; so it is not a stretch to imagine that Smith would reach near euphoric levels of pleasure just thinking about helping Mr. Brooks kill his next victim. Said alliance comes to pass when Brooks, trying to feed his hunger for murder, is caught in the act of killing for his first time in over two years. Smith doesn’t want to tell the police or blackmail Brooks, who is extremely wealthy in his other life. Instead, Smith wants to come along for the ride; one which Brooks had not intended on going on again. Brooks grudgingly agrees when Marshall reminds him that he can kill Smith too if the need arises.
Meanwhile, Detective Tracy Atwood (Moore) is on Brooks’ trail having been in the process of capturing him when he disappeared two years prior. Standing in her way is, seemingly, every government agency with any interest as well as a pending divorce. Apparently divorce settlements and manhunting are mutually exclusive. Luckily, Brooks takes an interest in Atwood and wants to help her because he respects that she has earned her position in life. While she is working rogue to find Brooks, he has his sights on convicted killer Thorton Meeks (Matt Schulze) as his next prey.
With such a busy schedule, it is little wonder that Brooks has little time for a home life. Brooks’ neglecting makes him concerned that his daughter doesn’t love him or, worse yet, will end up like him. It is discovered that she is the main suspect in the death of one of her classmates. Needless to say, Brooks is living a high-stress life and something has got to give.
When the dam finally breaks, it is a thrillingly unpredictable third act. There are some nifty set pieces that are too good to spoil, but let’s just say that the ending was clearly tampered with after being shown to test audiences. But no matter the fate of the characters in Mr. Brooks, all of the actors come out of it looking great. Cook is ready to develop his persona into something greater and Costner and Moore show that they still have it. Forget spiders, ogres, and pirates this soft-spoken psychopath offers the best thrills of the summer so far.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):