Monday, May 16, 2005


dir. Renny Harlin

Renny Harlin is one of the few B-movie/work-for-hire directors I actually look forward to seeing a new movie from on occassion. He's had many ups and downs, but usually his ups are pretty damn good; I truly believe that "Die Hard 2" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight" are two of the best action films to come out of the nineties. "Deep Blue Sea" might be the greatest B-movie ever made. However, his downs are unwatchable turds; "Driven" and "Exorcist: The Beginning," need I say more? So, I didn't know what to expect going into "Mindhunters," but I'm always curious to see movies about serial killers, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

The movie uses the "And Then There Were None," template. Strand a group of people on a remote island, in this case it's a crew of FBI Profiler trainees, and start having them picked off one by one. "And Then There Were None" is, in many people's mind, Agatha Christie's best book (For me, personally, it's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd," and I am dying to see someone make that into a film), and it's easy to see why many movie makers have payed homage to this classic.
It's an easy way to set-up a lot of tension, and it creates a murder mystery that is more compact and therefore more intersting for the viewer. It's a lot easier to follow the clues and pinpoint a killer when there are only ten possible suspects, as opposed to an entire city of them.

The fun parts of the movies are the tension built scenes leading up to each murder. The serial killer trapped among them is known as the Puppeteer, and he/she does exactly what you would think one with this moniker would do. The Puppeteer stages every death scene with neat gadgets and triggers, and has our group on edge trying to figure out how all of these puzzles are going to fall into place, and who is the next intended victim. The first murder, as Chris pointed out in his review, is by far the most fun of all of them, but I was impressed how Renny Harlin and screenwriter, Wayne Kramer, were able to keep the excitement going with each of the death scenes.

I've seen and read so many mysteries that it was nice to actually to be thrown for a loop at the end. I still think the identity of the killer ends up being moot, since with one clever sequence, it really could be any of them. But without giving too much away, I would have to say I was happy there were no "return from the dead" scenes. And once you find out who the killer is, the motive is pretty weak, but all of the pieces do fall into place nicely, so I commend Kramer for that.

Where the movie doesn't work is mostly in the characters themselves. With a cast filled with the likes of Val Kilmer, Christian Slater, Johnny Lee Miller, L.L. Cool J, and Kathryn Morris, you're going to get fine performances, but the semantics of the mystery itself means we can't learn a whole lot about these people until the end. Therefore, there's not a whole lot of development to get you too invested in these people. So, in the end, the mystery becomes the driving point of the film, and it's a pretty intriguing one. In that sense, the movie works for the most part.

So, did I like the movie? Yes and no. But I guess everyone's allowed a few guilty pleasures a year, and this one fits that bill nicely. Chris has "Hide and Seek," so I guess I can have "Mindhunters." There's no new ground covered here, and I probably shouldn't have enjoyed this movie as much as I did, so sue me I guess. All-in-all, if you're looking for a good whodunit and a few scares, "Mindhunters" will fit the bill quite nicely.


P.S. If I'm referring to the right L.L. Cool J line that Chris was making fun of, I personally kind of thought it was funny. It was a nice matter-of-fact statement that works well in the grand tradition of B-movies.


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