C

Mr. Brooks

Here are two things to know about Mr. Brooks going in: 1) Demi Moore plays a millionaire cop, and 2) that's one of the less ludicrous elements. Set in Portland, from all appearances a hotbed of glamour and serial-killing, the film stars Kevin Costner as the eponymous Mr. Brooks, a bespectacled cardboard-box magnate who, it's revealed in rapid succession, enjoys pottery and murder. In the latter pursuit, he's egged on by a man named Marshall (William Hurt), who exists only in Costner's head as a kind of Jekyll to his Hyde, or maybe a bloodthirsty Hobbes to his Calvin. Normally as skilled at covering up his murders as he is at committing them, Costner makes the unusual mistake of leaving the curtains open during the coitus-interruptus murder of a exhibitionistic couple, leading neighboring perv Dane Cook to blackmail him into bringing Cook along on his next kill. (Sometimes, apparently, aggression doesn't stop at the SUperFinger.)

There's more, quite a bit more, including subplots involving other serial killers, Moore's difficult divorce, and, in one scene, Costner in old-man makeup. Sadly, only Hurt seems to recognize that the only way to make this material work is to play it with lunatic enthusiasm instead of grave seriousness. Co-writer/director Bruce A. Evans packs about three movies' worth of madness into Mr. Brooks' running time. He field-marshals it adequately, and lovers of big-budget accidental camp looking to fill out a double-feature with this year's Perfect Stranger need look no further. But it's impossible not to imagine the cracked masterpiece Brian De Palma or Paul Verhoeven might have made from the same raw material, particularly given how little Evans gives Hurt to do, how much time he gives to Cook's apish mugging, and how little fun everyone involved seems to be having. No movie with characters called "The Hangman" and "The Thumbprint Killer" should be played so straight.

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