Sunday, 14 September 2008


Contains spoilers for Mr Brooks.

Since the 1970s, the writing team of Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon have sought to create the perfect script with each collaboration. Academy Award winner Kevin Costner believes they achieved their goal with their most recent project, Mr Brooks.

“Costner was incredibly complimentary,” remembers Bruce Evans, co-writer and director of the upcoming Mr Brooks... “He said, “I’ve read hundreds of scripts in my life and only four perfect ones. This is one of them.” (Script, Volume 13, Number 3, May/June 2007).

Are you quite sure about that, Kevin? Are you quite sure?

Just imagine for one second that your shower has sprung a leak and water is seeping through the ceiling below into your kitchen. Not good. So, after consulting the trusty Yellow Pages, you call a plumber, who duly turns up. You need to pop out for an hour, so you leave the plumber to it – the guy’s a professional, right? You trust him to do a good job – after all, he’s done this sort of thing before; the man knows what he’s doing.

You get back later to find that your plumber has ripped out the shower from upstairs and has relocated it in your lounge using nothing more than a plastic bucket with a hole in the bottom and the crazy magic of gravity. When you enquire what happened to the shower upstairs, he replies that it was old and needed replacing. And anyway – isn’t it more convenient to have a shower downstairs?

Brought to you by the power of crap analogy, welcome to the world of Mr Brooks.

Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon were the adapters/ screenwriters of Stand By Me, a film that Script rightly describes as “a standout among the classics.” So what the devil were they thinking when they cooked up a film such as Mr Brooks, which is so brain implodingly bad it’s difficult to know where to start?

Kevin Costner plays the titular Mr Brooks, a seemingly happy and successful family man. But there’s a problem: Brooks is a serial killer. And what’s more, he likes it. Well, not Brooks per se, but his ebullient alter ego, Marshall (William Hurt on autopilot). Brooks’s problems start when he murders two dancers with a penchant for having sex with the curtains open; Brooks is photographed in the aftermath of the crime, and is blackmailed by a Mr Smith who rather bizarrely wants ‘in’ on Brooks’s next murder. At that point, at least thirty seven subplots of such stunning silliness drop in uninvited to turn the entire film into a convergence of tangled narratives that lead us precisely nowhere:

* Demi Moore plays Tracy Atwood, the (highly unlikely) cop who’s after Brooks. Atwood is in the midst of a bad tempered divorce from her second husband, whose financial demands upon her seem excessive – that is, until Brooks and Marshall discover that Atwood is a millionaire many times over. This fact alone seems to motivate Brooks to kill Atwood’s husband and his lawyer, an action that inadvertently sets up Atwood as a suspect (only it doesn’t, not really). What does Atwood’s financial status have to do with the main narrative thrust, or anything else for that matter? Absolutely nothing at all. There’s an effort to toss a ticking clock into proceedings, but the device is used in such a convoluted fashion that the detail floats over your head (and who cares about a ticking clock in a subplot anyway? Wouldn’t it better to shoehorn it into the main narrative, where Mr Brooks and Mr Smith drive pointlessly around town looking for someone to kill (which they never actually get around to doing)?).

* Atwood spends a good part of the film being hunted by an escaped convict – a packing slip in Mr Smith’s empty apartment (the contents having been shipped out by Mr Brooks and the slip planted there knowing full well Atwood would find it) leads her inadvertently to this guy’s lair, where they indulge in a boringly filmed shoot-out. Again, what does this have to do with the main narrative? Absolutely nothing at all.

* Most pointless of all is the subplot that concerns Brooks’s daughter, Jane, who has returned from college to admit to her parents that 1) one day she’d like to take over pop’s super-exciting box manufacturing business, and that 2) she’s pregnant. What she neglects to tell them is that there was a murder at her college shortly before she bailed out back home. Suspecting that his daughter has inherited his psychopathic make-up, Brooks flies halfway across the country to Jane’s college and commits a copycat murder, thereby providing his daughter with an alibi (of sorts). This subplot is concluded when Jane stabs her father in the throat with a pair of scissors, thereby confirming his worst fears. But wait: Brooks’s death is all a dream! I’m afraid that I simply do not have the words to describe just quite how staggeringly stupid and inept this entire subplot is.

All bitching aside, if anyone can explain to me exactly what on earth any of these subplots have to do with the main thrust of the film (if indeed there is one), then you’re welcome to my copy of Script in which Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon recount how they got Mr Brooks off the ground (the one with the rather fetching picture of Randall Wallace on the cover). And if an entire rack of pointless subplots doesn’t do it for you, you might like to ponder the fact that the film resurrects this hoary old scene. Sheesh!

Stand By Me is a great film; Mr Brooks is unmitigated, unfocussed tosh. Weirdly, the one thing both films have in common is that they’re from the same writing team. If I was able to hark back to my crap plumbing analogy at this point, believe me, I would; however Mr Brookes is so bad, I’m pretty certain I’m going to have to think of an analogy that’s even barrel scrapingly worse than that.

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