Mindhunters Movie Review

In Mindhunters, a serial killer uses broken watches to reveal the time he's going to murder his next victim. Ironically, the film itself is like a watch -- a classy watch, in fact -- but a watch, nonetheless; similar in that both are reliable devices that do exactly what you expect of them and do so on autopilot, extracting little effort from the observer, until, of course, a battery change becomes necessary. Unfortunately, Mindhunters needs more than a simple battery replacement.

How's this for a final exam? Jake Harris (Val Kilmer), a controversial FBI instructor, immerses his students in elaborate, realistic training situations, and he pushes them to their limits for their final test. He flies his students (Christian Slater, Patricia Velasquez, Jonny Lee Miller, Clifton Collins Jr., Kathryn Morris, Eion Bailey, and Will Kemp) to a remote island used for war games practice, which has been deserted for the weekend.

To pass their exam, the students must figure out the identity of a killer called The Puppeteer before Harris returns to the island a few days later. He quickly leaves the island, but allows a profiler (LL Cool J) with the Philadelphia Police to observe the students and his own instructional methods. The exam quickly gets a little too lifelike, however, when students start dying -- for real. And it isn't long before they realize that the killer is one of them.

Mindhunters offers an engaging, violent premise. At a time when PG-13 rated "thrillers" have overtaken the multiplexes, this film deserves credit for granting thrill seekers an R-rated, adult experience, complete with a high body count and several grisly death sequences (one particular scene will make you think twice before smoking again), something that has become a rarity in recent thrillers. Surprisingly, the film doesn't hesitate to pick off the biggest names in the cast right off the bat. It's easy to find guilty pleasure in Mindhunters.

Apparently, director Renny Harlin -- known for action flicks like Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger -- edited the film over and over to perfect the pacing. His persistence didn't pay off, however, as the only effective moments are the death sequences, and they are isolated islands in a vast ocean of amateur dialogue, lackluster writing, and sub par performances. Mindhunters lacks suspense and tension. Harlin doesn't capture the terror and anxiety of his characters, even with the watch gimmick that pits them in a race against time.

Instead of elaborate plot devices like the watches, Harlin should have given the actors more to work with. The characters are almost completely void of interest as they wander from one implausible situation to another; they are merely puppets of the already mechanical plot (some of them become puppets, literally). Additionally, with all the creative booby traps the killer devises, I found myself rooting for the villain more often than not.

The script itself poses more questions than answers. When did the killer travel to this remote island to devise all of these elaborate traps? It's probably not an easy location to reach, especially since the U.S. government owns it and access is limited. When and how did he/she manage to booby trap the pipes, lights, cigarette machines, clocks, beverages, guns, and set up that never-ending line of dominos when security would be tight?

Actually, the more I think about the logic of Mindhunters, the less I like it. So I'll stop now before I knock off another star from my rating. It could get ugly.

The DVD includes a commentary track, making-of featurettes, and an interesting short documentary about the location where it was shot -- not an island off the coast of North Carolina, but rather a manufactured city in Poland.

Aka Mind Hunters.

It was much better than Cats. We're going to see it again and again.


Mindhunters Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, 2005


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