Jonny Lee Miller as Lucas Harper
Kathryn Morris as Sara Moore
Val Kilmer as Jake Harris
Christian Slater as J.D. Reston
LL Cool J as Gabe Jensen
Eion Bailey as Bobby Whitman
Patricia Velasquez as Nicole Willis
Clifton Collins Jr. as Vince Sherman
Will Kemp as Rafe Perry
Cassandra Bell as Jen
What could be an interesting premise is slowly chipped away at with bad acting, lame plot twists and over-the-top visual effects, ultimately destroying any chance of the movie working. Imagine “CSI” meets “Lost” only bad.
Eight FBI academy profilers get their last test before graduation, when their instructor (Val Kilmer) leaves them on a deserted military island with the assignment of catching an elusive serial killer. Their mission quickly turns deadly as they’re picked off one-by-one with elaborate death traps, and they realize that one of them may be the killer.
Delayed for years, Renny Harlin’s Mindhunters is one of those films that finally sees the light of day only by pure chance. While there really aren’t too many good things that can be said about it, it’s pretty apparent why the film was greenlit, because the concept for the thriller is an interesting one.
Mindhunters takes a solid premise that has worked for Agatha Christie for years, but then gives it an interesting spin, by making all of the victims (and supposedly, the killer) FBI profilers. This means that we’re dealing with a serial killer who preys on trained professionals who need to figure out the clues before the next person is murdered. It’s an interesting premise, particularly in the way that the killer uses their weaknesses against them, making it clear that it must be someone close to them who knows them well.
Out of the cast of mostly third and fourth stringers, Val Kilmer is actually pretty decent as the profilers’ teacher, which is a shame only because he’s barely in the movie after leaving them on the island.
The movie certainly has a cool look thanks to some of Harlin’s stylish visual ideas, but unfortunately, that’s really not enough to make a movie worth watching.
What Didn’t Work:
While there were a lot of bad things about the movie, it mostly comes down to the fact that Renny Harlin may be the worst director on the face of the earth. No matter how many bad movies or box office disasters, he just keeps coming back with one more and Mindhunters is no exception. This one actually starts out decently, and you’re kind of hoping that he’ll pull off another surprise like he did with Deep Blue Sea, but it doesn’t take long for the Renny Harlinisms to completely overpower any sense of story. This is the most evident in the overuse of visual effects which are pretty cool at first but then start to take over for weak story with lots of wild camera pans, fast editing, the over use of slow motion and close-ups, which don’t really add much to the story. It’s a classic example of trying to use style to overcome the lack of substance.
After the initial set-up, little of the story makes much sense. The first death trap is pretty clever and rather unexpected, but after that, things get dumber and dumber along with the characters themselves. (To illustrate how dumb would mean revealing far too many movie spoiler points.) There are plenty of bad movie clichés, as well, like the obligatory scene where everyone draws their weapon and accuses everyone else of being the killer. This plot is just a mess that gets worse and worse as it gets caught up in endless twists, and the ending is so ludicrous that you feel like you’ve been brought up to the top of this mountain, just to be thrown off the other side. By the time, you think you’ve figured out who the killer is they’ve changed their mind and made it someone else. And then five minutes later, it’s someone else entirely; almost as if they realized that none of it would stand up regardless. The big finale, an underwater gun shootoutno, I’m not making that up– allows you to watch the bullets completely miss their mark in slow motion a bit like Matrix bullet time only not quite as impressive.
The writing isn’t great, which is disappointing and surprising considering that Wayne Kramer wrote and directed The Cooler with William Macy. I’m not even going to try to guess what the heck the movie’s title has to do with the story itself. It’s simply one of the worst movie titles in a long time.
Still, none of that could possibly be as bad as the acting, which is so amateurish that it’s impossible to get into the characters or story. That’s the big difference between this thriller and movies like Identity or even Assault on Precinct 13 When you have semi-decent actors like Val Kilmer and Christian Slater in your movie, you would think that you would try to make the most of them, but both of them appear in the film less than ten minutes before they bow out leaving lesser actors like Miller and Morris to carry the film.
Of course, there’s also LL Cool J, who has been good in similar movies, but you’re never quite sure if he’s a good guy or a bad guy, and after awhile, you don’t really care either. He doesn’t do much to make you want to either root for or against him; he’s just kind of there.
The Bottom Line:
Watching Renny Harlin take what should have been a sure thing and completely destroy it with awful choices in casting, direction and the overuse of visual effects, almost makes this movie worthy of a case study. Rent it on DVD and you can profile it all you want.