Mind Games (2003) Movie Review

Note to Hollywood, filmmakers, and the vast sea of untalented actors out there: What you think as “Texan” is not actually Texan, but is in fact the warped idea of “Texan” that you created in the first place. I bring this up only because of Richard Norton, an actor who started life on celluloid by playing a high-kicking kung fu guy in a series of B martial arts movies over the last two decades or so. In “Mind Games”, Norton plays the improbably named Carter Tallerin, a “Texan” by way of an untalented Randy Travis, by way of the Australian continent, by way of $100 dollars Norton spent on “acting” classes a long, long time ago that, obviously, hasn’t come to fruition.

It’s bad enough that Norton has probably never been to Texas, but I doubt if he can find the Lone Star State on a map. Which makes his portrayal, and his atrocious Southern “accent”, all the more painful to bear. Of course Norton isn’t the only casualty of “Mind Games”. There’s Joe Estevez, acting in his 200th movie of 2003 in an extraordinary attempt to give Ekin Cheng a run for his hongkie. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Estevez is the brother of Martin Sheen, the fake President on TV’s “The West Wing”, and uncle to Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen. To get a picture of Joe, conjure up images of Sheen minus the self-righteousness and bad habit of climbing up on precarious pedestals in the neverending battle against Corporate America for the right of rag weed everywhere to live free and such.

Which leads us to “Mind Games”, a movie that is more comedy and camp than actual mystery. It stars Kari Keegan as Jill, a novelist who, after getting smack in the back of the head with a flashlight, loses 7 months of her life in what her doctor calls “retrograde amnesia”. She knows who she is, but can’t quite recall the last 7 months. This is not a good thing, especially since Jill has a conman for a brother in Brian (James Wilder) and slow talking and painful-to-listen-to Carter (Norton) shows up claiming to be her husband. Someone is playing “mind games” with Jill, and it’s up to the quick-thinking novelist to figure out what is going on.

A better question to ask while watching “Mind Games” isn’t who is playing games with whom and for what reason, but why is the rich Jill wearing the world’s most fake-looking wig whenever we see her in flashbacks? If I’m not mistaken, Keegan herself is a bottled blonde, which makes the presence of the horrendous wig even more baffling. You’d think a fake blonde could tell when the whole fake thing wasn’t quite working. I know this doesn’t seem all that important in the scope of any movie, which requires the audience to invest some suspension of disbelief in the first place, but you’d think a director would spot such an obvious bad choice involving his leading lady.

The lack of good decisions by director Carr extends to writer David Lasdon, who has fashioned one of those movies about conman and cons where everyone, it seems, is on the make, but has neglected to make the whole thing interesting. Of course the decision by Carr to make the movie all bubbly and peppy and mostly PG instead of atmospheric and somber adds to the movie’s inability to interest the audience. To be perfectly honest, Ladson’s script is easy to figure out. Gee, it turns out Carter and Jill were never married, and that Carter is just playing a con? And that Brian is in on it from the very beginning? Wow, color me shocked.

The worst mistake “Mind Games” makes is giving away its multitude of cons early on. You can practically see the twists coming from a mile away, mostly because the script lacks subtlety and Carr lacks the talent to recognize that his movie is as obvious as Martin Sheen’s faux status as the President of the United States. That said, there’s very little about “Mind Games” to keep one occupied, unless watching Kari Keegan is enough. The actress is certainly up to the task, and her character gets points for not being a complete idiot. But on the whole, “Mind Games” loses points for having no edge whatsoever.

“Mind Games” is a plain movie without much going for it. Keegan makes an interesting heroine and James Wilder is quite good as the easygoing conman brother. Unfortunately the supporting cast is atrocious and Richard Norton is such a bad actor all by himself that I kept expecting him to kick someone in the face with a roundhouse kick, thus justifying his presence in the movie. Alas, “Mind Games” is as lacking in the gratuitous use of bodily violence department as it is lacking when it comes to suspense and grit.

Now if only filmmakers will stop butchering the image of Texans in their films. I have lived in Texas for most of my life, and I swear that I have never, ever met a “Texan” who talks and acts the way Hollywood thinks we do. I tell ya, it’s almost enough to make one develop a personal grudge.

Adrian Carr (director) / David Lasdon (screenplay)
CAST: Kari Keegan …. Jill Reeves
James Wilder …. Brian Reeves
Richard Norton …. Carter Tallerin
Geoffrey Lewis …. Melvin Reeves
Joe Estevez …. Chester

Buy Mind Games on DVD