Serial killers are a dime a dozen in Mr. Brooks. It's an often beguiling but essentially ludicrous movie that flirts with the idea that the urge to kill is just another one of the pesky addiction problems that plague modern society. It even shows our buttoned-down serial killer, Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner), attending AA meetings and reciting the Serenity Prayer in an attempt to stave off his impulses.
Costner is great here as the two-sided monster: one, a successful, bowtie-wearing box manufacturer and devoted family man who has a picture-book life; the other, a methodical murderer of selected strangers who is known to the cops as the Thumbprint Killer. So far, so good, but then director and co-writer Bruce A. Evans starts piling on the subplots and general nastiness to a point that surpasses all credibility and, sometimes, even coherence.
The most glaring narrative conceit gives life to Earl's id in the form of William Hurt, whom Earl calls Marshall. Marshall goads Earl into giving in to his desires, yet no one but Earl sees Marshall in the room. Then there's a neighbor (Dane Cook) who happens upon one of the murders and, instead of going to the cops, wants to come along and learn the killing trade from such an expert.
The detective (Demi Moore) is an heiress who has tracked the Thumbprint Killer over the years. Somehow, two messy issues from her life become convenient fodder for Earl's murderous escapades: her messy divorce hearings and the sudden prison escape of yet another killer she'd put behind bars.
By the time the police come knocking at the front door, Mr. Brooks has exploded from its mild-mannered start into full Grand Guignol mode, and it would take a better filmmaker than Evans to pull off the tonal shift. Still, it's a trip to hear the acting pros, Costner and Hurt, cackling in unison as Mr. Brooks chalks up another one for his id.