Reviewed by Darren Bevan

WHEN YOU think serial killers, I’m willing to bet a number of iconic figures spring to mind – Hannibal Lecter, Freddy, Jason etc – but I’m also willing to bet you don’t think any character played by Kevin Costner. (Although you probably would be forgiven for thinking he’d murdered a lot of his own characters as he portrayed them in his previous celluloid efforts.)

Well, now is perhaps the time to reassess what you think of Mr Costner – he plays Mr Earl Brooks, an everyday citizen, Man of the Year, and bastion of society as the local proprietor of a box factory. However, when we first meet Mr Brooks, he’s uttering a prayer from the Twelve steps – seemingly to keep his inner demons under control. From the minute the awards ceremony ends, it’s clear to see why this apparent Everyman is so troubled – Mr Brooks has a murderous alter ego, Marshall (played with real malevolence by William Hurt) who acts in completely the opposite way to how a conscience should.

Mr Brooks, aka the Thumb Print Killer (so called because he leaves a thumb print of each of his victims behind at the scene), has been quiet for two years. Spurred on by Marshall, he kills again – but for the last time. Only this time, his method of execution is somewhat sloppy and he’s blackmailed by a voyeur who photographed him at the scene. Unlike most blackmailers, this miscreant wants in on the action and demands Mr Brooks takes him along to his next victim.

However, the net around Mr Brooks is tightening – with a cop (Demi Moore) closing in, problems at home with his family after his errant daughter drops out of college, and a blackmailer who’s determined to cash in his psychopathic tendencies, it becomes clear Mr Brooks is teetering on the brink.

Mr Brooks is a curious film – it’s really not what you’d expect from Costner at all, and his muted performance suggests a degree of cold heartedness and lack of emotion. William Hurt, however, steals the show as Marshall, the murderous alter ego who urges the teetering Mr Brooks further into murderous behaviour. His sleeked-back hair, maniacal desires and almost white pallor suggests a manifestation of death itself.

While the main plot is Mr Brooks’ quest for some form of inner peace, away from all the murderous behaviour, all the other subplots (the divorce of Demi Moore’s detective, a hunt for an escaped killer) tend to cloud the main thrust of the narrative – the only one which vaguely engages is the re-appearance of Brooks’ daughter, Jane (played by Danielle Panabaker) who may have inherited some of her father’s more murderous traits. This isn’t fully played out, although as Costner has hinted Mr Brooks is simply the first of a trilogy, with a chance there could be further resolution down the road.