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</script></div>{/googleAds}Ever wonder what dark, mysterious secrets your friends or neighbors may be harboring? Perhaps your best bud, whom you always thought you knew quite well, is secretly selling contraband sex toys (with accompanying self-made "how-to" video guides) out of his garage. Or what if you discovered your well-respected next-door neighbor is running an illegal chess gambling ring, complete with members of the clandestine "Pocket Protector Posse." Even darker yet, what if the upstanding pillar of your community is a serial killer. We see these stories about people who lead dual lives in the news all the time, so we know they happen in real life. But this idea of "people with secret identities" gets a fresh shot in the arm with Mr. Brooks, a smart, twisty psychological thriller that thrives on a pleasant little touch of black comedy and plenty of stylish film noir injected by second-time director Bruce A. Evans.

Kevin Costner is the somewhat nerdy titular character that actually looks quite innocuous in white shirt and bow tie. But beneath his passive exterior, he's anything but. Seems his dark side is fueled by something considerably more sinister than anything the sex toy industry or a board game gambling ring might offer up. Mr. Brooks feeds an insatiable desire to kill. But he doesn't just murder his victims and then exit the crime scene. After taking the time to sanitize the area, he poses the bodies in suggestively sexual positions and leaves a single bloody thumbprint of each victim, garnering him the nickname "The Thumbprint Killer." He knows what he's doing is wrong, so he attends AA meetings to discuss his "addiction."

Always at his side, needling and prodding, is Brooks' cunningly evil alter ego, Marshall, in the form of William Hurt. These one-on-one conversations between Mr. Brooks and Marshall are only visible to the audience a la Fight Club - leaving awkward moments of detachment to those characters in Brooks' presence. These little candid conversations add a bit of much-needed levity to the film and actually play quite nicely against the intensely exhilarating plot.

In his most recent relapse, Brooks breaks into an apartment and murders a young couple in the throws of passionate "flagrante delicto." But he soon discovers he made a careless mistake - something he never does when a horny, Peeping Tom stranger, who lives across the street from the murder house, caught the gruesome crime on film.

Luckily for Brooks, the witness has a similar sweet tooth for killing, so rather than report the incident to the police, Mr. Smith (Dane Cook) uses the leverage to bribe Mr. Brooks into taking him along on his next murder. After considering the alternative of having his cover blown, Mr. Brooks reluctantly agrees. It's amazing the contempt and disgust we feel for Cook's Smith. Chalk it up to the unexpectedly great performance by stand up comedian Cook in an off-cast role as a cheap, thrill-seeking murderer-wannabe who garners 10-times the reprehension and disgust we feel for Mr. Brooks.

There's another subplot that initially feels like a tacked-on stub meant solely as a vehicle to further fuel Demi Moore's comeback bid. She plays Detective Atwood, a millionaire heiress who is not only constantly on the tail of Brooks, but who is also incessantly hounded by her ex who wishes to get his hands on her fortunes. As the film progresses, we see that that the Brooks and Atwood plots eventually dovetail to add a bit of genuine creepiness to Brooks' motives. Although Moore and Costner are rarely on screen together, the entanglement of their characters is very important to the plot.

The story told in Mr. Brooks is not necessarily an original one, although there are a few clever twists and turns that keep us on our toes. But the whole thing works because of Costner. There's something very approachable and sympathetic about his Earl Brooks. Perhaps we're sucked in by his every-man sensibilities or the patience and vulnerabilities he displays in his dealings with his family, consisting of wife Emma (Marg Helgenberger) and daughter June (Danielle Panabaker). But it's more likely that we're set at ease by Costner the actor. We've grown accustomed to his generally anemic demeanor as the washed-up athlete or the hopeless romantic, so our comfort with his presence somehow allows us to accept and connect with the evil Mr. Hyde side of his personality. He's just like the innocent neighbor next door who could quite possibly be hiding similar skeletons in the closet. And that's what makes the premise so unnervingly real.

Mr. Brooks is by no means a great film, but it does display the occasional flash of greatness with true moments of powerful drama and discomforting moral ambiguity. And you can't say that about most of the films out there right now.


DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Language and Sound: English: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; deleted scenes; audio commentary; making-of featurette; music video..

* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with writer-director Bruce A. Evans and co-writer Raynold Gideon.
* Featurettes
o The Birth of a Serial Killer: The Writing of Mr. Brooks (7:19)
o On the Set of Mr. Brooks (9:29)
o Murder on Their Minds: Mr. Brooks, Marshall and Mr. Smith (9:09)
* Deleted Scenes - 6 scenes that didn't make the final cut.
* Theatrical trailer - original theatrical trailer of Mr. Brooks with trailers and previews of upcoming titles.

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging.