Earl Brooks (Costner) is a successful Portland businessman, recently honoured with the Man of the Year Award. Married to Emma (Helgenberger) and with a daughter, Jane (Panabaker), in college, he seemingly leads the ideal life. But Brooks hides an addiction from those he loves: he is a tormented serial killer with an alter ego, Marshall (Hurt), who gets his thrills by killing innocent couples.
Branded 'The Thumbprint Killer' by investigating detective Tracy Atwood (Moore), Brooks believes he has beaten his addiction by attending AA meetings and reciting the serenity prayer. Encouraged by his demon side, he agrees to one last murder for fun before he 'retires', but an uncharacteristic error leads to the hunter becoming the hunted. Overseen and photographed by a local voyeur (Cook), Brooks agrees to train his new recruit in return for his silence.
Director Bruce A Evans' use of two actors to play the killer is a fresh spin on the split personality. He manages to make Marshall the villain and Brooks a tortured soul, trying to find a path out of his addiction - in doing this he allows the audience to root for the 'good guy gone bad'.
Costner and Hurt share some dark comic scenes and make a good team overall, but it's the addition of numerous subplots involving Moore's detective that spoil the pace of the film. Playing a recently divorced millionaire who fights crime to prove her value to her father, Moore is given some awful set pieces and predictable lines to try and fill the gaps in Evans' script. In an age where crime shows have blossomed on TV, cinema has struggled to cope with the faster pace now set by the likes of 'CSI' and 'Dexter'.
Serial killers have long been box office gold. Every couple of years a new bad guy emerges to try join the likes of Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates in the iconic category. Many try, but few succeed and although 'Mr Brooks' is a brave attempt to join the ranks, the film is overburdened with too many plot diversions which are left unexplained and unnecessary.
A missed opportunity for Costner to breathe new life into his career.