HH (out of 5)
Directed by Bruce A. Evans. Starring Kevin Costner, William Hurt, Demi Moore, Dane Cook, Marg Helgenberger, Danielle Panabaker. 2 hours. Rated R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, nudity and language.
"The hunger has returned to Mr. Brooks," an opening title tells us in the thriller, "Mr. Brooks."
Indeed it has.
Mr. Brooks, a doting dad, devoted husband and Portland, Ore., cardboard box tycoon and "Man of the Year," gets his jollies killing couples in the act of love.
But it's been years since he's been "The Thumb Print Killer," knocking off people, posing them rudely and leaving their bloody thumbprints as a calling card.
He goes to AA meetings, whispers the "Grant me the serenity" prayer and tries to keep it under control.
But there's this voice, this guy — Marshall — that only Mr. Brooks sees. And since that guy is played by Oscar winner William Hurt, and Mr. Brooks is merely fellow Oscar-winner Kevin Costner, Mr. Brooks listens.
This intriguing but inept thriller, directed by the writer of "Starman," "Stand By Me" and some pretty awful movies in the decades since those, packages sex, violence, a feisty and filthy rich cop played by Demi Moore, a wannabe-serial killer along for the ride (Dane Cook) and no less than three actual murderers on the prowl for us to keep track of at any one time.
Because in addition to Mr. Brooks, there's a mass murderer named "The Hangman" that Demi Moore's cop once put away. He has escaped and is looking for revenge. And a third killer turns up in the second act.
The cop is going through a messy divorce from a pretty-boy golddigger who could be a cast-off from a gay soap opera. The naive but just-cunning-enough wannabe killer has dirt on Mr. Brooks and wants to learn the killing trade, preferably without Mr. Brooks killing him.
And Mr. Brooks, "serenity" prayers notwithstanding, can't fight the feeling any more.
Yes, they buy their plot in bulk at MGM these days.
But there's real pleasure in watching the always-a-little-stiff Mr. Costner try to give this guy humor and edge, and try that stuff out on the old scenery-chewer Mr. Hurt.
There are moments when Brooks and Marshall try out their morbid wit on one another and laugh each other silly. Costner is perfectly credible as a meticulous serial killer. He's just not an interesting one.
Moore is playing a cliche, and she isn't a good enough actress to hide the fact that she knows it. Cook is a mediocre actor whose track record for turkeys ("Employee of the Month") is unerring.
Director Bruce A. Evans handles a few moments of violence well. But he has so much killing to keep track of, on-screen and off, that he loses the plot thread, leaves out back story and crime details that we need to keep up and generally makes a hash of everything except the little two-character scenes — Hurt, purring, and Costner trying to be menacing without seeming menacing alongside him.
Hurt is less fun here than he was in "A History of Violence." But the real odd choice is Costner's, more delusional than heroically risky.
Costner may have "the hunger" to play cold-eyed killers. He's tried it before, in "3000 Miles to Graceland," "A Perfect World," even in "Water World."
But he has yet to pull one off.