a critiQal film review Mindhunters (2004)

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  • Vudu

Plot: Before completing their training with the FBI, a group of profilers are sent to a deserted island for the weekend to participate in a simulation. When one of them dies, they realize this is no simulation. Now, with no one else on the island, they must discover which one of them is the killer - or die.

Reviewed
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  • ...if you're looking to rent a good suspenseful psychological thriller, you can do a lot worse.

We had seen previews for Mindhunters a while back, but hadn’t heard much about it since. While working on the website recently, we noticed that the film had hit DVD shelves. Scouring our local Blockbuster®, we discovered a very few copies of it (due to it’s poor box office performance), and picked one up. With stars like Val Kilmer, Christian Slater and LL Cool J, it looked like a safe bet. But, would Mindhunters be our undiscovered gem, or would this Hunt end in boredom?

The cast turned out to be quite an interesting mix of characters. Aside from Val, Christian and LL, Mindhunters also includes back-from-the-unknown old pal Jonny Lee Miller (Hackers (1995), Dracula 2000 (2000), Angelina Jolie’s ex-boytoy), as well as some unfamiliar faces like Patricia Velasquez.

Val and Christian both lived up to expectations, although they didn’t get a whole lot of screen time. LL Cool J steps again into the limelight in Mindhunters, overpowering most other actors around him. His larger-than-life persona is well-fitted to films, and it’s surprising he doesn’t show up more often. He’s done a great job of growing into his acting career, with each role requiring more actual acting on his part than the previous ones. If he continues at this pace, there isn’t anything stopping him from becoming a major actor in his own right. Jonny Lee surprises in his role, seeming to have grown acting-wise during his long hiatus. Relative movie unknown Kathryn Morris (“Cold Case” (TV)) also performs well, showing real promise in her acting abilities.

Mindhunters centers around a group of FBI profilers who are at the mercy of a mysterious killer. Already, a good setup for many intense situations and, if played right, possibilities exist for quite the thriller. The film manages to keep the suspense going throughout the entire film, providing twists and turns at every angle. A good suspenseful thriller will keep viewers guessing until the end, giving a plausible explanation for why a number of characters could be the one. Mindhunters does just that. By the mid-point of the film, most viewers will probably have come up with reasons why each and every character could be the killer. By the end, when the killer is finally revealed, some of the viewers will be proved right, while most will mutter and say they saw it coming.

Unfortunately, some of the loose ends in Mindhunters are never completely cleared up, causing the viewer to come out of the movie feeling a little bit let down.

The death scenes are becoming a more important part of “serial” thrillers these days. After peering into the twisted mind of Jigsaw in Saw (2004), thrillers like Mindhunters have to come up with more and more twisted ways of killing people. Plus, Jigsaw’s killings let us see into the mind of the killer, thus furthering the viewer’s knowledge of just what was going on.

Until Saw II (2005) hits theaters later this month, viewers are looking elsewhere for the same sort of gory intrigue that made Saw (2004) so popular with viewers. With that fascination, viewers aren’t interested in the same boring death scenes they’ve seen a hundred times already. They want something fresh, preferably a new death, but a new surrounding or shock can also be appealing. Mindhunters, while borrowing from death sequences of the past, does present them to the viewers in new surroundings and with very little in the way of foreshadowing.

With “CSI: Crime Scene Investigations” (TV) and the like lighting up TVs each and every week, it’s obvious Americans have a fascination with what makes killers do what they do. So, a movie like Mindhunters – about FBI profilers going against a killer – seems like a sure-fire hit. Surprisingly, it’s poor performance in the box office suggests otherwise. But why? Is it because the public doesn’t feel a need to pay for what they can each and every week on television? That’s probably partly the reason.

Another for Mindhunters, sadly enough, is poor promotion. Sure, a couple of ads flashed by on the TV screen, but how many people actually pay much attention to commercials anymore. Americans have become so inundated with commercials (now even before our movies in theaters), that the overall effect is starting to numb the public. Without a huge buzz about a film, most will be content to sit at home and wait for the film to hit DVD. With little or no buzz, the movie will be quickly forgotten by the majority.

With such a varied cast in a film like Mindhunters, the filmmakers are taking a risk. After all, if even one of the actors doesn’t make their character believable, it will ruin the film for the rest. With no big star taking the lead reins for most of the film, the actors must work together to create viewer interest. Thankfully, the cast pulls together, and help to create a better film than any of them could have done separately at this point.

While Mindhunters bombed at the box office, if you’re looking to rent a good suspenseful psychological thriller, you can do a lot worse. True, it probably won’t hold up under multiple viewings, but it’s perfect for a Friday Movie Night.

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