As Jackie Earl Haley fought his urges in Little Children we watch his performance with admiration as his tortured side reached out over-riding his determination to give in to his pedophilia. In Mr. Brooks director/writer Bruce A. Evans eliminates that dual personality touch by casting William Hurt as Marshall, the dark side of Earl Brooks precisely played by Kevin Costner.
Hurt's Marshall is the nasty evil side of Mr. Brooks but he stands beside, behind or in Brooks' face. In the car as the two personalities search for a victim it's Hurt's quiet frightening voice that reminds Brooks how much he truly enjoys killing people. They ride like vigilantes into the night looking for strangers to kill. Strangers because as Brooks says there is no connection if the killings are random and a serial killer with no connection doesn't get caught.
Costner is way out of character here, but not out of his range of playing a determined steady cool character, smooth in his determination both to stop and to continue. He joins AA and when standing he simply says I am an addict. He is creepy dark and dangerous and Demi Moore's Detective Tracy Atwood hot on his trail also has a complicated life. Somewhat tong-in-cheek she is in the process of divorcing a young gigolo husband who won't settle for two million of her sixty million dollar fortune. The attractive lawyer bringing the husband's case finds herself in a twisted escape clause as Brooks assists Detective Atwood without a plan.
But the most twisted character is Dane Cook's Mr. Smith who connects with Brooks through viewing a murder of two exhibitionist lovers in a lit room at night with the drapes open. His fascination quickly moves from the sexy couple to the William Hurt side of Mr. Brooks. Murder is his new addiction and that will lead to him to eventually leaving liquid DNA at a murder site just when Brooks needs the help.
Costner's Brooks is a loving husband to his gentle wife Marg Helgenberger and delicate cute daughter (Danielle Panabaker). He is honored in his community, has a very effective secretary who balances his day and he is cool thinker both in business and at home.
If there is a flaw it fits all films about folks who have a big secret and hide equipment in secret rooms which no one finds, but we know at some point they must be discovered even if it is after death.
While we know Brooks is the killer, we almost find him acceptable because he wants to quit and his home life is so caring and idyllic. But just as it appears he can reach out of his dark world he discoverers his Bad Seed lurking just below the surface, which requires him to reach into his serial killer bag of tricks at least one more time.
Mr. Brooks never relaxes, the script continues with strange and unusual twists and the character development is never at rest - we are never able to have confidence in predicting what each character will do next. What we do get is a twisted well plotted story that holds our attention and regularly snaps us into a reality that we don't see coming.