Mr. Brooks (2006)

Rated: R
Grade: AFBA=B+
Budget: $20 million
Box Office: $28 million US, $15 million int’l, $11 million DVD

Directed by: Bruce A. Evans, whose only previous directing was for the 1992 Christian Slater film, Kuffs, although he has worked on Jungle 2 Jungle, Stand by Me, Assassins, and Starman. None of this tells you anything you want to know about this movie, unfortunately.
Starring: Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, William Hurt, Dane Cook, Marg Helgenberger, and Danielle Panabaker.

A serial killer, who struggles against his own desire to kill and has vowed to give it up, gets caught in his last one by another citizen who wants to be his apprentice. Pressured into taking him on a future hunt, Mr. Brooks must also deal with the growing realization that his own daughter may have his disease and a police detective hot on his trail.

Entertainment Value: A
I found the plot to be particularly fascinating, the characters are well designed, and the movie has a hundred interesting elements for thought and discussion. I wanted to quit in the first 10 minutes or so, and you will also, but it’s worth watching if you can get past the beginning.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sexuality D, Violence D, Language D, Illegality F
There are several scenes of nudity, male and female, including one brief scene of sex. There are several killings, and many pictures of dead, naked victims as well as a shootout with police. Obviously the whole plot of the movie revolves around particularly evil murders. Language is in line with everything else here: bad but, if it’s possible to say so, tastefully done. This is clearly a movie for adults only.

Significant Content: B
The theological, moral, and psychological issues here are ripe. We have a serial killer of strangers who struggles against it and is pro-life when it comes to his own daughter’s pregnancy. The reason I give it a B is because the movie is so clearly against what it is showing. Mr. Brooks is appealing not, like Hannibal Lecter, because he is a sophisticated and ruthless killer but because he so clearly struggles to not be what he is. There are two kinds of main characters in this movie, the evil who embrace it and the evil who resist it. It’s no Christian treatise, but that’s a pretty sound premise.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
If ever there was a movie worth discussing, this is it. The cinematography is excellent. The acting is excellent. But the real merit here is that this is exactly what art is supposed to be: interesting and confrontational. And the use of William Hurt as Costner’s evil corrupt alter-ego is brilliantly done.

Discussion Questions:
~What sort of rationalizations does Mr. Brooks use to deceive himself about himself and his behavior?
~Is it possible to make up for evil deeds by doing good deeds?
~How did the ending elements make you feel? Are those feelings Christian?
~The serenity prayer has a prominent presence in this movie. Does that bother you or seem to make sense? Is this movie endorsing religion and AA or criticizing them?
~What’s the relationship between alcoholism and murderism in this movie? Is murderism a disease? What’s the difference between Mr. Brooks and an alcoholic? Does Mr. Brooks murder from hate? Is hate a disease? What would you think of an organization called Murderer’s Anonymous?
~What is this movie trying to say by making Mr. Brooks man of the year in his city? What traits that make for a successful businessman would also make for a “successful” murderer?
~What’s the connection between the thrill of sexual voyeurism and that of watching violence? What does your answer tell you about the United States? Do you find yourself more revolted at the sex/nudity or at the violence? Why? Why is pornographic pleasure bad but voyeuristic wrath pleasure okay?
~Evaluate the statement, “If you learn to like killing, it can become very addictive. It could ruin your life.”
~Evaluate the statement, “I don’t enjoy this, Mr. Smith. I do this because I’m addicted to it.” Would it be accurate to say that Americans are “addicted to judgment?”
~This movie has been accused of endorsing moral relativism. Do you agree?
~Does this movie wind up endorsing the sort of violence in it or not?
~How might this movie affect an unstable person? A stable one?
~What is your reaction to Mr. Brooks? Admiration, pity, contempt, repugnance, or something else? Why?
~What word would you be comfortable using to describe Mr. Brooks? Evil, sick, delusional, dangerous, inconsistent, human?
~What is your reaction to Mr. Smith or to Marshall or even to Detective Atwood?
~How would you compare Mr. Brooks with Hannibal Lecter and with Mr. Smith? What traits of each, if any, do you admire or condemn? What would you like to see happen to each of them?
~Why is it important for Mr. Brooks to keep his secret from his family? How does confession help prevent sin? Why do we do things that we are ashamed of and despise? How do such things separate us from other people?
~What do you make of Brooks’s being pro-life?
~What does this movie have to say about sin? Can sin be controlled or not? How would this movie be different if Christ were involved in it?
~What do you think of generational curses? Is Brooks to blame for his daughter? What do you think of his efforts to protect her and the results of that?
~Movies that make heroes out of villains are evil. Is this movie guilty of this sin?
~Would it have been possible to make this movie with a PG or PG-13 rating? Would that have been dishonest to the thematic content? Would you want younger people to watch it even then?
~Do you ever feel like you have a Marshall in you? What things does he try to get you to do? Does Christian theology have place for a Marshall character in humans?

Overall Grade: B+
Many won’t like it because of the basic nature of the film, and even I was a bit reluctant to watch it, but I’m very glad I did.

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