Directed by: Renny Harlin
Starring: James Todd Smith (LL Cool J), Jonny Lee Miller, Kathryn Morris, Patricia Velásquez, Clifton Collins Jr., Eion Bailey, Will Kemp, Val Kilmer, Christian Slater.
From the director of Die Hard 2. Written by the writer of The Cooler. With the stars of Trainspotting, Heathers and Any Given Sunday.
From the director of Driven. Tweaked by the writer of Blood and Chocolate. With the stars of Love, Honour and Obey, Alone in the Dark and Rollerball.
Which of these is the most accurate tag line for this movie?
Mindhunters is a film which was filmed in 2002 but went unreleased until 2004. It only cost an estimated $27 million. Distributed by what seems to be a different company in every country. The story is from the standard template. All of this seems to be going against the film but for some reason the film works and, if you let yourself be sucked in, is one of the more enjoyable thrillers of the past few years.
The storyline is based on the old standard (set by Agatha Christie in And Then There Were None) of a group of people who, whilst isolated from the world, start dying one by one. This has been used in many films ranging from Identity to the several film versions of the original book. Even Quincy had an episode based on it. In Mindhunters there are only 9 possible suspects. The twist is that eight of them are trainee FBI profilers and the other is their instructor. They all have very specific characteristics (indeed LL Cool J’s character points this out for our benefit) which after the first quarter of an hour are pretty well defined. This is done though a (potentially) film stopping opening scene and a scene at a bar where each character has a few seconds to show their defining trait.
Val Kilmer is the misunderstood FBI instructor who is not taken seriously by his peers. Christian Slater is the headstrong leader. Jonny Lee Miller is a supposedly fearless man who was orphaned when he was a child. Kathryn Morris is the insecure woman who really wants to succeed. Patricia Velásquez appears to be a jack of all trades who is trying to quit smoking. Clifton Collins Jr. is the paraplegic who always has a gun to hand. Eion Bailey is the Mr Fixit. Will Kemp is the intelligent British exchange profiler who is addicted to coffee. LL Cool J is the perceptive outside observer, but can they trust him?
The ensemble cast work well together although half of them are only there for fodder and as such don’t have particularly strong characters. This could be in part down to the other actors being more overpowering, i.e. LL Cool J and Christian Slater. However, Kathryn Morris stands out as a strong, if uncertain, woman driven by a desire to become a profiler. The characters played by Eion Bailey and Will Kemp might as well not be there and only really serve to up the body count.
The film keeps up quite a fast pace and never seems to become stale or tedious. Harlin’s direction and editing has always impressed me. Even in dreck like Driven he keeps the movie going and it never becomes dull (even if it does become very stupid). Even when I was not convinced by a scene, the next scene came barrelling along and kept the story going.
It could be the fact that I tend not to be able to guess whodunit but in this instance it seemed relatively unimportant. It is obvious who is going to come through in the end so you can spend your time rooting for them. I certainly wasn’t really surprised by the eventual outcome, nor could I spot any obvious clues that I had missed. This is the films main failing but this is a failing that films based on Christie have a penchant for.
Is this the best film in the past 10 years. No. Does it deserve to languish on the shelf for years waiting for a release. Definitely no. It seems unfair that rubbish thrillers like Basic Instinct 2 and Valentine can get a full cinema release (although I can see the draw for the former) yet this relatively entertaining film with a well known ensemble cast gets jettisoned into Straight-to-Video obscurity. In my opinion, Mindhunters is certainly worth a rental if you enjoy thrillers.
Onto the reason why I have chosen to review this film. Patricia Velásquez comes off, as mentioned above, as a bit of a jack of all trades. Her quitting smoking seems to be a bit of a clichéd shorthand for making her abrupt and most likely to snap. However, she certainly handles the role well and I would hope to see her in more action/thriller movies in the future.