'Mindhunters': A Movie Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

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By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 13, 2005

"Mindhunters" crushes three pulp formulas together -- the 10 little Indians thing from Agatha Christie, the CSI science mumbo-jumbo thing from network TV and the typical, hard-action, R-rated Beretta-o-rama thing from any thriller since 1984 -- and creates . . . ta-da! . . . three pulp formulas crushed together.

The movie is so stupid it makes "xXx: State of the Union" look like it was written by Nietzsche. As a graduation exercise, seven young FBI trainee profilers -- you know, the sexy law-enforcement specialty of reading personality from crime scene clues and predicting the next murder of serial killers, as well as their birthdays, taste in ties, preference in pets and preferred men's magazine -- are choppered to an island near the Outer Banks where military trainers have built a mock town. There, profiler-guru Jake Harris has arranged a mock crime for them to solve by unraveling or scientifically analyzing a series of clues. Except that once they are alone, they start dying one by one in amazingly clever ways, because, you see, a legendary serial killer has already infiltrated the island and is now stalking them. Just to make it more interesting, and to allow director Renny Harlin to indulge his clock fetish, he leaves broken wristwatches near each body to announce when the next victim will join the dead.

Evidently, these young FBI geniuses were just on a collective undercover assignment to infiltrate the Melrose Avenue club scene, because their disguise consists of half-grown (or half-ungrown) beards, shaggy hair, insouciant wisecracking attitudes, tight T-shirts and even tighter jeans. Hmm, I wonder, does the FBI issue Levi's or has it gone all mod with Wranglers? Anyhow, the kid cast looks like it thought there was a UPN prime-time soap audition slated for the island. Couldn't the filmmakers have done some heavy research like, say, renting "Silence of the Lambs" to see how FBI trainees dress?

The movie quickly disposes of its few supervising grown-ups: that would be Val Kilmer -- reprising his Jim Morrison definitely un-FBI haircut -- as the guru Harris, and the ever-smirking Christian Slater, who looks throughout as if he's planning to fire the manager who got him this gig.

The film then simply fills out its running time with creative slaughter of an unlikely kind, where the clever stalker has analyzed his prey so efficiently that he knows exactly how each will react -- down to the inch -- to the little tricks he plays, and as they react in that fashion, they meet their fate.

But the murder gizmos are so Rube Goldbergy they require the agents to stand still for what feels like hours waiting for them to play out and arrive at the killshot. In one particularly stupid sequence, after two guys survive a surge of electrified water, a third goes to extravagant lengths to turn off the flow and thus experiences the fruits of what must have been hidden bows-and-arrows for the three fletches that come whistling his way. Stop and think about how hard it would be to build a booby trap around drawn bows, as this gimmick requires.

The boys are Will Kemp, Eion Bailey, Clifton Collins Jr., Jonny Lee Miller (no American man can look at this guy without certain words coming to mind: "What the hell was Angelina Jolie thinking?"). One of them who isn't Miller looks like the love child of Willem Dafoe and Robert DowneyJr., but I don't know which role he played, and if you saw the movie, you wouldn't, either, and you couldn't find the energy to look it up. The rest just look like each other, the guy in "Monster-in-Law" and the entire cast of "The O.C." Then there's LL Cool J, but you know he's innocent because he has really cool tattoos. The two women are Patricia Velasquez and the usually pretty good Kathryn Morris, presumably before her "Cold Case" series was a hit (the movie has been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years). She's probably the most embarrassed woman in America today.

Mindhunters (at area theaters) is rated R for extreme violence and unsettling sexual crimes; it is 106 hours lo -- 106 minutes long.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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