Review: Mindhunters (2004)

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Harvey S. Karten

Jan 16, 2004, 3:24:29 PM1/16/04

Reviewed by: Harvey S. Karten
Grade: B+
Dimension Films
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Written by: Wayne Kramer, story by Wayne Kramer
Cast: Val Kilmer, LL Cool J, Christian Slater, Eion Bailey, Will
Kemp, Jonny Lee Miller, Clifton Collins Jr., Kathryn Morris,
Patricia Velazquez, Trevor White
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 12/15/03

Do you think you can read people's character by looking at
them and their surroundings? For example, you see a couple of
people speaking fluent German, toting large bags bearing
Lufthansa tags on New York's "A" train. So, you say, they're
either Germans on tour or German-Americans returning home.
Not bad. But if you discover that they're Germans on tour, does
their being here in December mean they're being economical
since that wintry months in New York are an off-season, or do
you think they're being wise to come here when the city's not
crawling with fellow tourists and they can see the real New

There is a way of figuring this out, but you've got to be a good
profiler, and good profilers are just what the FBI needs in Renny
Harlin's "Mindhunters," a cop story with overtones of horror of
the type that Dimension Films loves to distribute. FBI profiling is
more complex than the example described above. The agents
must look at the crime scene, examine the position of the
bodies, look into computer files to see whether similar offenses
have been committed in a particular style. A group of these FBI
agents who have not yet been accredited as profilers by the
chief of the division, Harris (Val Kilmer), are sent on a jag that
blows TV reality shows out of the water, a kind of "The Real
Cancun" without the bikini babes and with merriment that's not
of the social kind but is biting and hostile and fun for the
audience if not for the participants.

Gabe Jenkins (LL Cool J), J.D. Reston (Christian Slater),
Bobby Whitman (Eion Bailey), Rafe Perry (Will Kemp), Lucas
Halpern (Jonny Lee Miller), Vince Sherman (Clifton Collins Jr.),
Sarah Moore (Kathryn Morris and Nicole Willis (Patricia
Velazquez) are flown by chopper to a deserted, government
owned island set up like a huge video game with figures
popping up and down begging to be shot, and buses filled with
mostly innocent people and at least one terrorist who
presumably will be identified by good profilers. The candidates
are told that they will be judged according to how quickly and
successfully they analyze a set-up crime scene and conjure a
profile of the killer.

Unfortunately for the ambitious super-cops, someone is not
playing games but picking off the agents, one by one, slowly
and methodically, in each case leaving clues just before each
assassination. This concentrates the attentions of the crew,
because their lives depend on unraveling the mystery before the
next person gets shot. Using watches, explosives, and meat
hooks favored by slice 'n' dice pics, the mastermind behind the
serial killings gets the agents not exactly paranoid because
paranoia by definition is an irrational fear but so mistrustful of
one another that time after time they draw their guns and point
them first on one suspect, then another. What is clear is that
someone in the group is a nut job, perhaps a guy who had failed
to make the grade on a performance test and needs to get back
at the FBI in the harshest manner.

"Mindhunters" is a thriller in every sense of the word, loaded
with the usual false alarms (is the guy with a hood over his head
really going to kill me, or is he a plant just testing my ability to
profile?), more important, though, with so many twists and so
many motives possessed by the people on the isle, that
"Mindhunters" works just fine as a whodunit as well as a thriller-

Val Kilmer in the role of the head of the project gets only about
ten minutes of screen time before he allegedly disappears from
the island in the helicopter, allowing each of the frantic agents
(except of course, the killer) to suspect the next guy. The
methods of execution are graphic. One dude is sprayed with a
liquid gas, freezing his body from his feet up, until he is divided
like Gaul into three parts. One is hanged on a meat hook. Yet
another is shot while a fourth dies from smoking. (Take your
rebellious, immortal teenaged son or daughter to the movie to
witness that one.)

The concept is not original. After all, Jim Gillespie's film "Eye
See You" featured Sylvester Stallone as an FBI agent taunted
by a serial killer and James Mangold's "Identity" put seemingly
unrelated people in a fleabag motel on a stormy night with a
psycho killer on the loose. But originality is difficult at best in a
film world that has seem almost all of 'em. The concluding
moments are flawed by the usual nonsense of a killer's losing
an edge by talking too much while holding a gun on the good
guys, but Harlin's movie is well-paced, convincingly performed
by actors, each of whom displays a signature quirk, and fills the
bill of providing suspense, excitement and mind games.

Rated R. 110 minutes.(c) 2004 by Harvey Karten at

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X-Language: en
X-RT-ReviewID: 1239449
X-RT-TitleID: 1129243
X-RT-SourceID: 570
X-RT-AuthorID: 1123
X-RT-RatingText: B+

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