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Premieres & Events

"This Might Be Our Sellout"

Kevin Costner introduces Tuesday's screening of Mr. Brooks at the Tribeca Grand (Photo: STV)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

The Reeler swung by the Tribeca Grand Tuesday night for a special screening of Mr. Brooks, a thoroughly odd thriller (opening Friday in New York) starring Kevin Costner as an upstanding Portland, Ore., businessman who battles and ultimately indulges a succession of murderous impulses. If only it were that simple -- subplots ebb and flow like luggage thrown off a sinking ship -- but at its core Mr. Brooks is a kind of fascinating, ambitious misstep that even its own star seemed to recognize (and maybe even appreciate) in his introduction.

"You make a movie, you wonder if anybody will show up," Costner told the standing-room-only audience in the hotel's screening room. "You make a movie like this, and you're really not sure anybody's going to show up. And the fact that you have really makes me think we should have charged money. This might be our sellout." The crowd laughed, though the observation yielded a more bittersweet quality.

"I didn't make this movie alone," Costner continued. "There's too much Kevin sometimes when a movie's concerned. 'Kevin's Field of Dreams.' Well, that's not quite true, is it? My movies involve a lot of people. In this instance, our director Bruce Evans, who wrote this movie, did a great job. And we had a great cast." He puased and smiled. "I hate people who talk during movies and before them. I feel like I'm in therapy; I'm hating myself at this moment. But I'll just tell you: You're going to see this now the way I always wish I could see it: in a real virginal way. You don't know where it's coming from, you don't know what it's about. I have that experience with my movies never on the screen. I have them strictly on the couch, by myself.

"And sometimes you read one," he said, "and it just sparkles, and it just feels like a little gold dust. And I've had that experience eight or nine times in my career; I had it with this one. I knew it was a tough subject -- one that's difficult to speak well of. But it does speak well of our industry and the writers in our industry when they can take a subject like this, put the muse on their shoulder and give us a window into someone's life like this. When I read it, I knew I wanted it to be part of my filmography, and I knew I wanted it to exist exactly as it was written; we didn't change a line."

For better and/or worse, if you believe him. Characters starve as director Evans and longtime screenwriting partner Raynold Gideon gorge on plot: More Goofus-and-Gallant than Jekyll-and-Hyde, Costner's title character squares off against his calculating alter ego (a simmering William Hurt) as an eyewitness blackmails him into tagging along for a snuff and a strutting, go-getting homicide detective (Demi Moore) sniffs his tracks for evidence. The detective's gold-digging ex, Mr. Brooks' college-dropout daughter and another pair of seemingly unrelated killers are add-ons of varying value; the idea that serial killing is genetic is one of the film's more compelling (if underexplored) tangents, and the ignored class conflicts here have a muscular dynamic of their own.

Costner and Hurt are great despite the material; Moore does what she can with a character who feels like an afterthought at best, a gimmick at worst. "What the fuck is going on?" I whispered in earnest to a colleague as a dense exchange of moral contradictions gave way to a flashy, loud abduction-cum-fight sequence. I guess I get it now, but in the end, Costner's right: Mediocrity is a tough sell, but at least one can marvel at the magnitude of lost opportunities.

Posted at May 30, 2007 10:02 AM

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