Directed by Renny Harlin
Produced by Cary Brokaw, Jeffrey Silver, Bobby Newmyer & Rebecca Spikings
Written by Wayne Kramer & Kevin Brodbin
Director of Photograpy Robert Gantz
Music by Thomas Kantelinen
Cast: Val Kilmer, Christian Slater, LL Cool J, Jonny Lee Miller & Kathryn Morris
2004/106 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
Anamorphic Widescreen/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Dimension Home Video DVD
Poor Renny Harlin. He was once one of the most promising directors working in the industry, as he worked himself up from low-budget horror-fare such as PRISON and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER, to big-budget films like DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER. But, since CLIFFHANGER in 1993, Harlin hasn't had a film which was a huge hit. This is unfortunate, because he is a throwback filmmaker of sorts who focuses on entertainment and giving the audience the most bang for their buck. His latest film, MINDHUNTERS, is no exception, as it's short on story, but is nonetheless interesting.
MINDHUNTERS focuses on a group of FBI trainees who are under the tutelage of Jake Harris (Val Kilmer). This group of young agents -- consisting of J.D. Reston (Christian Slater), Sara Morre (Kathryn Morris), Lucas Harper (Jonny Lee Miller), Nicole Willis (Patricia Velasquez), Bobby Whitman (Eion Bailey), Vince Sherman (Clifton Collins, Jr.), and Rafe Perry (Will Kemp) -- are all training to become serial killer profilers. As part of their conditioning, the group travels to an island off of the coast of North Carolina. This island contains an artificial town, where the participants must track a fictitious serial killer. Joining them on the island is Gabe Jensen (LL Cool J), a police officer who is there to brush up on his profiling skills. Once Harris explains the rules to the group, he leaves them on the island. But, as they begin to look for clues concerning the killer, the trainees begin to die for real, one-by-one. It quickly becomes clear that there is a real killer on the island and that they are intent on taking out the team. As the group of survivors begin to dwindle, those left begin to suspect one another, and as their secrets begin to come forth, the killer is forced to come forward.
As with many of Harlin's recent efforts, save for EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING, MINDHUNTERS is almost a good movie. The film certainly has a lot of things going for it. The idea of a serial killer hunting serial killer profilers in a secluded locations is definitely interesting, and is a nice twist on the recent spate of serial killer films. The story is basically a new take on the old Agatha Christie tale "Ten Little Indians", but instead of a group of "normal" people, we have a group of trained law enforcement officers going up against a killer. The use of the island is a good change of pace from the usual "old house"-type setting and its barren look creates a true feeling of dread.
As is to be expected, Harlin gives the film a great look. Say what you will about this man's abilities as a storyteller, he makes pretty movies. Here, he deftly mixes the bleak look of the island with the dark, warm tones of the headquarters where the group is staying. Also, Harlin has never shied away from violence and there are some gory murders in MINDHUNTERS. Actually, the first kill on island is surprisingly graphic, so much so the viewer doesn't want to believe that it's real at first. Similarly, Harlin is good at shooting action scenes and this film features some good one, but I quickly grew bored with the extended fight scene in the finale which immediately brought THEY LIVE to mind.
With Harlin's mix of action, style, and entertainment, something must be sacrificed, and in the case of MINDHUNTERS, the story suffers greatly, and this ultimately hurts the film. For starters, there is very little character development in the film. In fact, when the second murder occurs, I honestly wasn't sure who had just gotten killed. The "profiles" of the characters never digs beneath the surface and when the killer is revealed, his MO is quite shaky. Also, the murders occur through elaborate booby traps, which look great on film, but come off as incredibly unrealistic in the movie. And the question which really bugs me about the story -- After the trainees begin dying, clearly their training exercise goes out the window, yet, what happened to the fake killer?
MINDHUNTERS certainly has its share of flaws, but if are willing to suspend your disbelief, especially during the finale, when the physics questions begin to fly just as quickly as the bullets, the movie is entertaining. Renny Harlin brings us another film with his trademark style and action. The intriguing story is hampered by some problems, yet if you can turn your brain off, you may find a suspenseful serial killer film.
MINDHUNTERS takes a stab at DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as it is sharp and clear. The picture shows very little grain, although there is some visible in the daylight scenes. The movie gets dark at times, but the action is always visible. The colors, although muted at times, look fine. There are no overt problems from artifacting or edge enhancement. The DVD sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue, music, and sound effects. The stereo effects are excellent, as are the surround sound and bass effects. The audio mix is quite good and the surround effects in the film are abundant and the dynamic range is stable.
The MINDHUNTERS DVD carries a few extras which are of varying quality. We start with an audio commentary from director Renny Harlin. Harlin speaks at length throughout the film and his deep voice is quite soothing. He hits a lot of technical points and doesn't talk much about the story. His chat has many facts, especially concerning the location shooting, but he does gloss over some things, such as how the first kill on the island was done. "Profiling MINDHUNTERS" is an 8-minute behind-the-scenes featurette which contains a great deal of on-set footage and comments from the cast & crew. This segment gives a nice overview of where the film was shot. This is followed by two brief featurettes -- "Stunt Sequence" (5 minutes) is a detailed look at the film's final fight, while Harlin gives us a tour of the mock city in "A Director's Walk Through Crimetown" (4 minutes).
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©