Mindhunters (2004)

(Release Date: May 13, 2005 [USA])
(Premiere Date: March 19, 2004 [Belgium - Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Films])

Man... This is the FBI?Man... This is the FBI?1/2

The Poorly Executed Executioner!

Insert lame Quip here!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

Mindhunters is packed with excellent ideas and the premise (while, in truth, just a variation on a done-to-death theme) can't be beat. The primary problem with Mindhunters is that it can't decide what it's going to be when it grows up. Director Renny Harlin's motivation to make a film that is both Slasher-Horror and Action-Thriller ultimately sculpts this film into something that is neither. It's hard to say what writer Wayne Kramer (who shares a "Screenplay By" credit with Kevin Brodbin) had in mind when he formulated the ideas for Mindhunters but it has the ultimate feel of a Serial Killer flick, blended with the training of FBI Cadets... sort of a Silence of the Lambs with more Agents and more Killers. The final result feels indecisive and stock, calculated to make teenagers jump and giggle in their seats with Horror motifs and Action music, usually accompanied by a funny quip from one of the stars.

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After a theme-setting opening, we're introduced to Jake Harris (Val Kilmer) and his team of Profiler-Trainees: J.D. Reston (Christian Slater), Sara Moore (Kathryn Morris), Nicole Willis (Patricia Velasquez), Vince Sherman (Clifton Collins Jr.), Lucas Harper (Jonny Lee Miller), Bobby Whitman (Eion Bailey) and Rafe Perry (Will Kemp). Each one has their hang ups, each one has their secrets and each one has their own hairstyle.

Each one is united in their animosity toward the all-too-hard Teacher, Harris. In fact, each seems to be as eager to graduate from the program for the honor of serving as profiler as for the ability to get out from under Harris' thumb. To do this, however, they must travel to a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean to take their final exam. There, Harris shows them an Ideal American City that he calls "Crimetown USA" (equal parts House of Wax Paraffin Village and The Hills Have Eyes Nuke-Test City) populated by lifeless mannequins and about ten thousand stray cats. The team is then told that there is a serial killer somewhere in the town and that over the weekend they must deliver a profile on who that killer might be. Sound rough? Well there's also the addition of someone new, someone not part of the team, Detective Gabe Jensen (James Todd Smith aka LL Cool J).

Soon the game becomes real and the Profiler Cadets and their new Podnuh start to see their team killed off one at a time. The psycho has a penchant for elaborate murder scenes and the use of broken clocks and watches to predict the time of the next murder and taunt the prey. Everyone is a suspect, anyone could be the killer... Is it one of them, the new guy, Harris having never left or some other rear-end who has shown up to enjoy leg-of-Agent?

Sound familiar? Aye, Madame, 'tis common. It should sound familiar. Every third horror flick has the same formula. The concept of having these be trained profilers for the FBI should, and to an extent, does make this feel somewhat original. Sadly, Harlin seems to miss the opportunities for real horror here, proving that he is a sum of his experiences. Instead of embracing the terror here, Harlin seems to be reliving his directorship of Die Hard 2 throwing in quips, jokes and really bad puns for just about every action. Every step of the way more people get killed in new and original ways, like in any given horror movie, but Harlin avoids the fear (though piles on the gore) in favor of many of the same kinds of bad puns that Harlin directed Freddy to say in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. More often than not, these quips come out of the mouth of still-buff LL Cool J. And, ew, they're bad. For example, when cutting off the electric flow that threatens to electrocute him and the cadets, LL pauses to say "LIGHTS OUT!" Ugh. Throwing another "Clue" watch to the ground he says "Time's up!" Argh. On calculating the odds of survival, LL expectorates the line "Iny, miny, mino, mo. Who's the next motherfucker to go?"

The sheer incongruity and misplaced nature of the genres Harlin is playing with are what kills this Serial Killer flick. I'm all for the mixing of Genres, but there are more seams in this final product than in an American Quilt. The main irritant here is the now-cliché element of "EVERYONE'S A SUSPECT", which means, basically, that there's nothing clever about the mystery. By setting up everyone equally, all the film makers had to do was choose someone still surviving at random in the final act. Then the audience will say "Oh, YEAH, now I see it." Yeah, Psychology is fun when you're the only one in on it, huh, guys?

It's not all bad, though. Kathryn Morris does a fine job as the conflicted young trainee who might be the killer. Some of the effects and death scenes are both well-effected and creative. Julian Ashby's set design and Jon Billington's art direction are both pretty commendable, considering the eerie nature that accompanies this dead town that shouldn't exist. Further the linking of this plot to the historical Roanoke Colony is relatively inspired. I only wish it hadn't fizzled as so much of the rest of this poor-man's Se7en did. I will say this, while I deplore the concept of setting everyone up as a suspect equally (It's just lazy, folks! Watch your Hitchcock and read your Agatha Christie!) the finally revealed culprit is at least a little bit surprising. Naturally, Harlin has to throw in the now-obligatory flashback montage (one of many, many montages Harlin gives us) to prove he's not pulling a fast one, but still, it's kind of cool to discover. Lastly, there is a pretty nifty little underwater sequence that is fun, if impossible. See, that's our Renny, man! He takes a great idea like an underwater fight and hoses it by turning all involved players into Aquaman and Submariner. Dude, the guy from Lady in the Water held his breath less long than this. Wish my wife could hold her breath that long.

Grrr. Anyway, in spite of it's flaws, this isn't a terrible film. Oh, it's not great, but it's a valid enough time passer for a Sunday Morning. Probably inspired a few popcorn fights too. Ah, well... Two and One Half Stars out of Five for Mindhunters. Somehow Kathryn Morris, even with her boy scout hairdo, can make any case a HOT CASE. Hell and damn. So until the TV Series version of Mindhunters debuts (no, I'm not kidding) and we see if that one's a Bloody Good Time, I'll see you in the next Serial Reel.

I have to look at the bright side here...
At least this movie didn't go in the direction Fatal Justice did.
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Mindhunters (2004) Reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
who is solely responsible for his reviews and for the fact that
if there's Cheese to be found, he will find it... Sadly.
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