A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this graphic thriller isn't for kids, despite the fact that popular comedian Dane Cook co-stars (he plays a dark, repulsive character). There's graphic sex (breasts are visible, and plenty of activity is implied) and violence, including frantic murder scenes (victims realize they're about to be killed, scream, then suffer brutal injuries). Shots of broken, bloody dead bodies abound in crime scene tableaus and close-ups. Characters discuss murder and its motives and argue about family relationships (especially fathers and daughters). Language includes frequent use of "f--k."
What's the story?
Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) knows he has a problem. He believes he's addicted to killing, which he's apparently been doing for years. It helps that he's a wealthy businessman, which gives him both the leisure time to plan and execute his perfect crimes and access to all kinds of transportation and equipment. His whole life is arranged to cover up his "hobby" from his wife, Emma (Marg Helgenberger) and daughter, Jane Jane (Danielle Panabaker). But there's another side to MR. BROOKS -- Earl has regular conversations with an alter ego named Marshall (William Hurt). The two share entertaining, even charming contemplations of their methods and drives. When Earl leaves a bedroom curtain open, one of his crimes is photographed by the utterly slimy Mr. Smith (Dane Cook). Earl's problems multiply when he learns he's being pursued by a detective, Tracy (Demi Moore), who's very good at what she does but is also battling her own demons. That her troubles involve her wealthy father creates an alternately clunky and nuanced parallel to Earl's increasingly fraught relationship with Jane -- especially when it turns out that his daughter decides to leave college not just because she's pregnant, but also because a young man she knows has been murdered. As Earl contemplates the possibility that "she has what I have," he also struggles to rid himself of both Smith and Tracy, stylishly and efficiently.
Is it any good?
Director Bruce A. Evans' second movie (after the teen comedy Kuffs) is uneven and contrived. Yet the mutual admiration club formed by Costner and Hurt offers some smart, taut comedy in the midst of grim commentary on the impulse to consume violence. While the movie doesn't exactly break new ground by indicting viewers (who are aligned, at least initially, with Smith), it does make your inclination to identify with Earl aptly uncomfortable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about our culture's fascination with serial killers. Do you think the media glamorizes these criminals and their brutal crimes? Does Mr. Brooks have anything in common with another famous movie serial killer, Hannibal Lecter? Families can also discuss the film's suggestion that murder can be "addictive." Do you think a tendency toward violence (or other addictions) can be passed on genetically? How does the film make its killer protagonist look relatively sympathetic? How does the movie frame the murders as art?
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