by Matt Smith
My oh my oh my oh my – now THIS is a bad movie. It doesn’t reach the epic heights of awfulness that an After Earth or a Grown-Ups, but it’s pretty bad. That said, and before enumerating some of the terribleness I forced myself to re-watch (yeah, I saw this in theatrical release), there are still one or two things to like about it.
It’s atmosphere. This is something the filmmakers actually get right. They shouldn’t, considering how bad everything else is, but they do. Hey, even a broken clock gets the time right twice a day, right? Mindhunters is that broken clock. We are awash in a haze of dim grays and blacks and misty blues as we follow a crack team of would-be FBI profilers. These guys are taken to an abandoned island for a final assessment. Some of them will make it, some won’t. The FBI profiler, we learn in the opening scene, is a position of honor that is hard earned. Or something.
The island itself, though, is festooned with artifacts and window dressing that make every room and outdoor location look like a potential crime scene. For a training ground for a bunch of potential agents, this is good because they have to study the evidence closely and filter out the other stuff, I guess. For an audience, it’s creepy to have a bunch of mannequins and other paraphernalia constantly hanging around in the background.
And then the film does NOTHING with this stuff.
The group is brought to the island by their instructor Jake Harris (Val Kilmer), a former profiler with “unorthodox” methods now relegated to training the next generation. After dropping them off, he runs away to observe the team and their methods. When the killer strikes in the morning, they all find the crime scene and begin analyzing it for clues about the serial murderer, “The Puppeteer.” Suddenly, an elaborate trap is set in motion and the first of the group dies (J.D., a mis-cast Christian Slater, who is thankfully killed off early), revealing that there is a real serial killer on the island and that he is targeting each member of the profiler group. I bet you guys can take it from here.
What follows is a ton of clichéd dialogue about trust and which one of the agents might be pulling the strings and quite a few of the elaborate, illogical, and ultimately fatal traps one would expect to find in one of the Saw sequels. Worse, the twists just keep on coming until the end, when they no longer make any sense whatsoever. Okay, so the guy it would be logical to have be the killer (mostly based on how he spent the last ten minutes trying to kill the two other survivors) turns out not to be the killer, but the other guy who couldn’t have been in all the places to set the traps up? Oh, right – this movie sucks, so of course all that makes sense.
Honestly, I wanted LL Cool J to be the killer. He’s good, and it’s a change of pace for his work in the late-90s/early-2000s where he was the lone black guy standing after many a horror flick. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be – he was just A killer, and not even the one who set up the traps for the rest of them. Yeah, just dumb.
So – Kilmer. He’s here, and honestly he’s not bad, especially compared to the rest of the cast. But once again, he’s given a thankless role when he’s not in a cameo, which is becoming a noticeable pattern in his work as I keep powering through the past decade. I know there are bright spots coming, though, so that keeps me going. And honestly, when he just pops up in a film, he’s always a pleasure, so I’m hoping there are some hidden gems ahead.
Mindhunters isn’t one of them. The cast is too old for their parts (I swear Slater has to be at least forty in this movie, so how is he possibly on the cutting edge of new recruits?), and the script is terrible. The action sequences are contrived and poorly executed, and overall the film is an epic waste of the talents of everyone involved. Not even really enjoyable in a bad way. The only plus is that it does keep you guessing until the very end, only because the big reveal isn’t based on anything resembling a logical progression of clues or even realistic basis in the time-space continuum.
The Komplete Val Kilmography (2003-2012) is an ongoing column that will run through the end of the year. I will be viewing and writing about each film (and many TV shows) Val Kilmer appeared in (as long as I can track down a copy of it) in the past decade.