Father isn’t quite himself today: As Mr. Brooks’s titular small-town paragon, Kevin Costner harbors a dark secret — William Hurt, as “Marshall,” the embodiment of his murderous yearnings, who eggs on his shadow life as a demonically efficient serial killer. Erstwhile golden boys spreading into middle age, Costner and Hurt’s rapport is equal parts cigar bar sinister and boardroom jocular, as if Twin Peaks’s demonic Killer Bob and his host were closing real estate deals on the 19th hole. Not that director Bruce A. Evans and his screenwriting partner Raynold Gideon explore such sly resonances; they’re too busy writing portentous devil-on-your-shoulder dialogue for their high-concept metaphor. Indeed, it’s hard to tell what Marshall’s doing in the movie, save gussying up a sordid procedural with a bit of literary frisson.
In this, he’s not alone: as a frigid, too-dogged homicide cop, Demi Moore flails against a backstory burdened with sexist pop psychology (and a roid-raging escaped con who serves to show off Evans and Gideon’s script doctor skill for convergent subplots); the Brooks’ home life reels from their daughter’s possibly genetic delinquency; then there’s Brooks’ corporeal wingman, Dane Cook, as an amateur shutterbug and blackmailer itchin’ to ride along on the next kill. By loosing Cook’s repulsive frat-boy-on-a-coke-deal mugging on the role of a peeping tom fascinated by killing, is Mr. Brooks attempting to implicate the audience for their own immoral yen for violent spectacle? Seems somewhat counterintuitive, and anyway the shock cuts and strobe-lit shootouts reveal a less ambivalent take on filmed brutality — so add it instead to the movie’s roster of blood-caked, half-baked ideas. I need a shower.