Dir:Renny Harlin. UK-Neth-Fin-US. 2005. 108mins.
Finallyemerging in the US theatrical market after a year or more on the shelf, RennyHarlin's Mindhunters is a serial killer thriller offering a few decentthrills, some fairly gruesome chills and more than its fair share of laughablyoverblown moments.
Financierand international seller Intermedia has already reaped revenues from openingsin a number of international markets but the mid-level ensemble cast is notlikely to attract young Stateside audiences in any great numbers. Thepre-summer US release will probably serve mostly to set the film up for whatmight be a solid DVD performance.
Miramaxlaunches the film - technically a British-Dutch-Finnish-US co-production shotin the Netherlands, but in essence an all-American B picture -- under itsDimension label in the US on May 13, the last slot before the really big summermovies start arriving. Star LL Cool J and a few trailer-worthy scenes representthe film's best hopes of a quick theatrical killing.
Theatricalruns last year in territories including Germany, Spain and Brazil have alreadyyielded around $14m international gross for the sub-$30m film. Forthcomingreleases (some through Sony) in territories including the UK and France may addmodest amounts to that if distributors can avoid higher profile competition.
Writtenby Wayne Kramer (The Cooler) and Kevin Brodbin (Constantine), thescript was apparently inspired by Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians.The Indians in this case are a bunch of scruffy FBI trainees - with onlyloosely defined characters - played by Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting),Kathryn Morris (Minority Report), Patricia Velasquez (TheMummy Returns), Clifton Collins (Tigerland), Eion Bailey (FightClub), Will Kemp (Van Helsing) and, albeit briefly, ChristianSlater.
Togetherwith a bureau observer (Cool J) the students are sent by their maverickinstructor (an even briefer turn by Kilmer) to a remote island. There, theyundertake an exercise in which they must provide a profile of a dementedlyingenious - and supposedly fictitious - killer called The Puppet Master. Soon,however, the exercise turns real and the paranoid trainees have to use theirskills in a fight for survival.
Themurderer's habit of killing to a deadline allows for frequent build-ups oftension. But Harlin cranks up the suspense with a very heavy hand and too oftenresorts to scenes consisting of round-robin discussions about what the killermight do next. The question of the killer's identity adds some mystery to theproceedings but it also leaves the story with a hole where the bad boy shouldbe. And it doesn't lead to any kind of gratifying breakthrough from thefledgling investigators.
Themurders themselves are comically baroque and effects adequate to cheesy: onevictim literally cracks up after being frozen by a jet of helium and anotherturns to mush after smoking an acid (not the far out kind) cigarette.
Theperformers attempt to provide the action with a bit more than just whodunitsuspense, but they're not helped by dialogue that's frequently as dead as ThePuppet Master's latest victim. LL Cool J (who also appeared in Harlin's DeepBlue Sea), playing the hard man of the group, gets many of the dullestlines and Miller never seems comfortable with his vaguely southern accent.
Prodcos: DimensionFilms, Intermedia Films, Outlaw Prods, Avenue Pics, Weed Road Pics
US dist: Miramax
Int'l sales: Intermedia Films
Exec prods: Moritz Borman, Guy East, Nigel Sinclair, Renny Harlin
Co-exec prods: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Prods: Jeffrey Silver, Bobby Newmyer, Cary Brokaw, Rebecca Spikings
Scr: Wayne Kramer, Kevin Brodbin
Cine: Robert Gantz
Prod des: Charles Wood
Eds: Paul Martin Smith, Neil Farrell
Visual effects supe: Brian M Jennings
Music: Tuomas Kantelinen
Main cast: James Todd Smith aka LL Cool J, Jonny Lee Miller, KathrynMorris, Patricia Velasquez, Clifton Collins Jr, Eion Bailey, Will Kemp, ValKilmer, Christian Slater