Mr. Brooks – DVD Review

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Bruce A. Evans


Kevin Costner……….Mr. Earl Brooks
Demi Moore……….Detective Tracy Atwood
Dane Cook……….Mr. Smith
William Hurt……….Marshall
Marg Helgenberger……….Emma Brooks
Danielle Panabaker……….Jane Brooks

The Movie

If Mr. Brooks could be divided into two equal halves, it would perhaps be realized into a great psychological drama about a serial killer and a solid police procedural featuring a police officer who’s personal and professional life is in turmoil. And that’s inherently the film’s problem; it tries to mesh two films into one and as such goes from being one of the summer’s best kept secrets to being a good but not quite terrific film.

Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) has the sort of charmed life only available in the movies. He has a successful and profitable box-making business, a beautiful wife (Marg Helgenberger) and daughter (Danielle Panabaker), a luxurious home and has just been named the “Man of the Year” for his charitable contributions. Everything seems ideal except for one thing: Brooks has a secret. Sometimes the dark half of his personality, a man named Marshall (William Hurt), comes out and Earl’s addiction to killing takes over. Secretly a wanted killer known as “The Thumbprint Killer,” Earl’s predilection towards execution style killings is only matched by his attention to detail. When a fatal flaw unknown to him shows a voyeur (Dane Cook) his secret identity, Earl is left with his secret life in almost as much turmoil as his personal one. Combined with a wealthy detective (Demi Moore) trying to crack the case, Earl is left trying to balance everything out in a dark but overly convoluted film.

Mr. Brooks has a deft touch that not too many noir pieces have anymore. It’s a dark and brooding film that moves with a deliberate pace, keeping the film gripping for most of its two hour running time. With lots of dark colors juxtaposed against some solid whites and grays, the film creates an atmosphere that’s engrossing. It doesn’t hurt that Costner and Hurt have a great chemistry together that brings out the better qualities of a great script.

The decision to make Brooks’ evil side into a person gives the film a much more unique presence to it, as it allows us to sympathize with him as it makes his dark side into something finite, but it’s the presence of the two men that makes it work. Costner is used to being the good guy and has enough charisma that believing him as a bad person makes it tough; having Hurt in the picture to be the sort of bad guy that’s needed helps Brooks be a sympathetic anti-hero. These are two veteran actors with a plethora of end of the year hardware between them, so it’s no surprise especially considering they worked on The Big Chill together. They work well together, as the film’s style of stopping the plot and letting them interact in the same manner as someone’s inner dialogue is a bit jarring at first but is a bit more natural as the film goes on. And if it were just left to show the effect that the thrill killing had on Earl, as well as the discovery of his secret identity, the film would be one of the best of the year without a problem.

The problem in this case is that it attaches another subplot that’s unnecessary to the proceedings regarding Moore’s character and her personal life. It’s unneeded and distracting, as another serial killer is on her trail while she’s simultaneously tracking down “The Thumbprint Killer” to go along with a divorce to someone who apparently doesn’t know the meaning of monogamy. On its own, and given some time to grow, it’s a top-notch police procedural with some good developments in the main character. In the context of being the main subplot of Mr. Brooks it doesn’t work because it gets away from the main plot of the film. It’s a distraction for the most part, as well as unnecessary, because the detective doesn’t mean as much to the film’s central plot. Take out the 30 minutes needed for this and you have a masterpiece about obsession in the light of good and evil. With it in it is a flawed but top-notch thriller.


Presented in a widescreen format with a Dolby Digital format, the DVD’s audio/visual capability is good. The film itself has a lot of dark colors, not bright or appearing picturesque, but there’s a subtlety in the DVD’s black tones that’s terrific. The audio quality is terrific, too, as the film’s score comes in well without overpowering the dialogue-driven script.

The Extras

Deleted Scenes are included with the DVD release, including an alternate opening to the film. Most are cut for a reason, as they don’t add much back into the film.

The Birth of a Serial Killer: The Writing of Mr. Brooks focuses on the film’s script. It’s a really interesting concept to hear them talk about the actual incarnation of Marshall as opposed to making him part of Brooks’ conscience. They imagined the picture as a sort of noir piece about obsession, initially writing the project to be for Kevin Costner.

On the set of Mr. Brooks is a quick piece about the film’s production. Costner’s suggestion of the film being more like an independent film, than a studio film, contributes to a lot of the film’s unique trait to it. Film in Shreveport, LA, the location is used as a double for the film’s location setting in Oregon.

Murder on their minds: Mr. Brooks, Marshall and Mr. Smith is a look at the film’s main character. It’s interesting to hear the cast and crew discuss how Costner and Hurt took on the characters.

Theatrical Trailer for the film is included as well as a Commentary with Evans and Raynold Gideon. Additional trailers for DVD releases of Day Watch & Wall Street as well as for several Fox/FX shows are included as well.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Mr. Brooks
(OUT OF 10)