indhunters" has one of those irresistible
premise that begs to be made into a movie: FBI trainees, trained in the art of
profiling serial killers, go on one last "simulation" on a small
island in the middle of nowhere before graduation, when they discover there is a
serial killer among them and bodies start falling. Can a group of young, smart,
and resourceful would-be FBI agents mutter up enough skills to stop a serial
killer who schedules their deaths and takes their lives exactly at the promised
If the premise of "Mindhunters" sounds a bit
familiar, it may be because the Sylvester Stallone serial killer movie "D-Tox"
(later retitled "Eye See You") tread some familiar grounds. In that
movie, cops from around the country (along with FBI agent Stallone) are trapped
by a blizzard inside a detox center in the middle of nowhere, when a serial
killer begins to pick them off. With the FBI characters in
"Mindhunters", the rules of the game remains mostly the same -- except
these characters are supposed to be just as smart as the killer. And while the
characters of "Mindhunters" do tend to use their heads more, a lot of
brawn still gets thrown around -- probably more than they should have been.
Val Kilmer ("The
Salton Sea") gets top billing as Harris, the trainees' supervisor, who
appears for about 10 minutes of total screentime. After Harris leaves the island
(or did he?), the real main character played by Kathryn Morris (TV's "Cold Case") steps up to the plate. Morris' Sarah is an obvious Fair Hair Lead
-- she's pretty, blonde, and very bland. And because "Mindhunters"
follows the Teen Slasher narrative very closely, anyone familiar with the genre
knows that the script's attempts to throw suspicion at Sarah, the easily
traumatized heroine (aren't they always?), are fruitless. Everyone knows the
Fair Hair Lead in Teen Slasher movies has to always be around in the end to take
on the killer in order to prove her mettle and showcase her hidden inner
badness. It's the Golden Rule of Teen Slasher films.
With all the FBI trainees familiar with one another when
the killings start, suspicion immediately falls on outsider Gabe (LL Cool J,
"SWAT"), a cop
who joins Harris' simulation at the very last minute. Of the FBI trainees, there
is Christian Slater as alpha male Reston; Eion Bailey as smart aleck Bobby; Brit
Will Kemp as Brit Rafe; Brit Jonny Lee Miller ("Dracula
2000") as Texan (?) Lucas; Clifton Collins as the wheelchair-bound
Vince; and supermodel Patricia Velazquez ("The
Mummy") as ex-smoker Nicole. Besides Kilmer, the other big name playing
an extended cameo is Slater ("Who
is Cletus Tout?"), whose Reston meets his untimely demise at the wrong
end of a liquid nitrogen tank that literally tears him to shreds.
Speaking of bodies, the kills in "Mindhunters"
are quite graphic. Besides Slater's shredding, another character gets
decapitated and another sucks in the wrong end of an acid-laced booby trap.
"Mindhunters" was directed by Renny Harlin, who seems to have confined
the ridiculously manic style he developed during "Driven" to only
appropriate moments. Because the killer openly mocks the trainees by
broadcasting when his/her next victim will die, time plays an important factor.
Harlin's brief flashes of clocks ticking sends all the right messages, giving
the film urgency as the characters struggle to uncover the killer's identity
before he/she gets them.
"Mindhunters" is, for the most part, a nicely
paced suspense thriller that hits all the right paranoia buttons. There's rarely
a dull moment in the whole movie. Besides the killings, the characters are
constantly at each other's throats, attempting to profile one another at the
wrong ends of gun barrels and really nervous trigger fingers. Suspicion goes
round and round, and by film's end everyone has been given a reason to be the
actual killer. With the exception of the Fair Hair Lead, of course. Her
"motives" to be the killer never really sticks.
The screenplay by Kramer is mostly clever, with the
killer's identity kept secret until almost the very end. And even then the
identity is revealed in one of those forced "shocking" moments where a
character believes he/she has figured it all out, except the audience realize
there's still way too much running time left. It also has to be said that the
script takes some liberties toward the end, especially when a character acts
like he/she is the serial killer when he/she had no reasons to do so. The
purpose, of course, is to save up the Big Reveal, but it all seems a tad too
"Mindhunters" doesn't do everything well, of
course, but its loud action, break-neck pace, and rampant paranoia puts it on
par with the mind-twister "Identity",
which was itself overrated in this reviewer's opinion.