Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: LL Cool J, Johnny Lee Miller, Kathryn Morris, Patricia Valesquez,
Clifton Collins Jr., Eion Bailey, Will Kemp, Val Kilmer, Christian Slater
Director: Renny Harlin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: September 20, 2005
time are they set for?”
SET FOR NOW.”
When a movie
manages to take a familiar movie formula and still manages to deliver the goods
and then some, you can’t help but acknowledge it as something of an
accomplishment. We’ve seen many horror and suspense movies that apply the Ten
Little Indians plot scenario, where a group of characters in a confined setting
are being knocked off by a vicious killer one by one. The all around best
example is Identity, and Mindhunters can certainly be hailed as the second best example
which, again, is a good accomplishment.
The movie also
marks a high point for director Renny Harlin, who has always known how to craft
thrilling and exhilarating popcorn entertainments. Having spent the last decade
making mostly action-oriented flicks, Harlin has managed to make his most
perfect piece of popcorn cinema yet in the form of a stylish suspense thriller.
The end result had me ranking this alongside the director’s ultimate best such
as Cliffhanger and Deep
Like most of
Harlin’s movies, Mindhunters is best
enjoyed if you suspend all logic and just go along with the ride. The title
refers to a group of elite FBI profilers that are trained to hunt down serial
killers using nothing but the mind. They are undergoing an extensive training
program under the watchful eye of Harris (Val Kilmer). The team of aspiring
profilers, led by J.D. Reston (Christian Slater), includes agents Sara Moore
(Kathryn Morris), Lucas Harper (Johnny Lee Miller), Nicole Willis (Patricia
Velasquez), Vince Sherman (Clifton Collins, Jr.), Bobby Whitman (Eion Bailey)
and Rafe Perry (Will Kemp).
The team of young
agents is about to embark of the most challenging part of the training op, which
will take place on a remote island. The facility contains a mock-up of a town
known as “Crimetown U.S.A.” Harris has informed the team that a killer,
named The Puppeteer is terrorizing the town, making this the most intense test
of their profiling abilities.
there’s an added agent to the bunch in the form of Gabe Jensen (LL Cool J).
Though he’s from another FBI unit, Gabe is quick to demonstrate that his
profiling skills are no different than that of theirs. The team of profilers
then set to begin their elaborate simulation in an area where every setting
seems to have a bizarre trap set, but only in training exercise-terms.
takes a nasty turn when one of the agents is gruesomely wiped out in front of
the other agents, after unknowingly setting off a lengthy booby trap. The
remaining agents soon realize that this is WAY more than a simulation.
Additional traps are found throughout the island, and it becomes clear that a
very real killer is waiting in the midst until the last agent is dead.
With no way off the
island and tensions rising, the profilers soon take notice of an ugly
possibility; one of them may be the killer. At first, they suspect Gabe since
he’s an outsider, but when he later saves a fellow agent from near death, he
very much clears his name. From this point on, the true identity of the killer
is as clear as mud.
In movies like
this, the viewer seems obligated to become detective and spot the possible
killer before he or she is revealed. Let me state right up front that in this
movie, it will do you no good in doing so. By the end of the movie, I found
myself fooled no less than three times before the killer’s true identity is
revealed, at which point I was quite stunned. Harlin and the screenwriters have
done a most masterful job of jerking the audience one way and then another in
Mindhunters also carries elements of trademark Renny Harlin that you certainly
wouldn’t have gotten from another director. Midway in the movie, LL Cool J
finds himself climbing on pipes in a hallway to avoid electrocution from below.
And the movie concludes with a gun duel under water, which is as ballsy an
action scene as only Harlin could pull off.
And fans of slasher
movies are bound to get a kick out of the gruesome delights that Harlin has
indulged in. The deaths are both tremendously gruesome and worthy of jump
scares. Remember the surprise Samuel L. Jackson got in Deep Blue Sea? That’s the kind of scare quality we’re talking
here, and two actors who I’ll leave nameless should get tremendous props for
allowing themselves to get taken out in such disgusting ways.
Bottom line, Mindhunters
is pure cinematic tension, and the type of go-for-broke popcorn entertainment
that Renny Harlin has always been known for. The great ensemble, along with the
creepy atmosphere and Harlin’s signature touch make this a must for those
seeking hardcore edge-of-your-seat thrills.
anamorphic handling of the quite atmospheric thriller is of outstanding form. 90
percent of the movie takes place in dark and confined settings, and the image
quality manages to remain detailed and flawless throughout. It may just be the
best presentation to date for accomplishing so much with so many darkly lit
sequences. Picture detail is tremendously superb, and colors also blend
amazingly in the mix.
By now, about every
Renny Harlin movie on DVD has provided one explosive piece of audio after
another, so it goes without saying that the 5.1 mix on this disc is nothing
short of phenomenal. From the opening scene, the superb sound element (key in
any movie like this) never lets up. And when the action starts on the island
setting, the quality only gets better and more dynamic. All channels come to
life in a number of sequences, including a key scene involving a voice coming
from speakers. One pure reference quality disc!
A good enough level
of extras on this release, including an always intriguing commentary from Renny
Harlin, two featurettes; “Profiling Mindhunters” and “A Director’s Walk
Through Crimetown”, and a Stunt Sequence Breakdown.