Monday, April 28, 2014



It has just been so busy here at Chateau Maine as I try to put my life and world back in order following my stay at that dreadful Gitmo all inclusive tropical resort this past year. Invoices and bills are piled all over the furniture. There is a spectacular backlog for deliveries of my clothing line to market and my checking account is overdrawn again for the third time this month. Fortunately, residuals from my television series Picky Vicki, a competitor to Siskel and Ebert that ran in syndication a few years back and is now something of a minor hit on some obscure cable channel will be coming in soon. 

Normy and I have been in discussions and we both feel that I am in desperate need of a new project to raise my visibility. Musicals are making something of a comeback in Hollywood, what with the high profile of Dreamgirls and last year's film versions of Rent and The Producers. I simply have to find just the right property. A quick perusal of the Sunday New York Times shows that there is a market for '80s nostalgia. I simply have to find a seminal '80s property that lends itself to my unique entertainment gifts and will be easily adaptable to screen requirements and a compact budget. My first thought was The Terminator as I was born to play Sarah Connor and had a lovely design for a second act machine gun ballet but James Cameron was unwilling to relinquish the rights as he is considering a similar adaptation himself. 

In the midst of all this, I have had little time for film viewing, but I did manage to collapse the other night in front of the television for a showing of Renny Harlin's film Mindhunters with brief appearances by Val Kilmer and Christian Slater and starring a lot of B and C list performers whose names are unfamiliar, even to the initiates of Hollywood. Renny Harlin, a Finnish film director who used to be married to Geena Davis, used to be one of a crop of rising young action directors handed 'A List' projects. He directed the second Die Hard film and the Stallone vehicle, Cliffhanger before he and his wife decided to resurrect the pirate/swashbuckler genre with Cutthroat Island. That particular debacle, along with its follow-up, The Long Kiss Goodnight more or less did in both his and Geena's careers, as well as their marriage so I suppose he has to take what he can get these days. 

Mindhunters is an odd cross between Agatha Christie's classic Ten Little Indians and Se7en, and The Silence of the Lambs. A group of FBI trainees, interested in becoming profilers of serial killers, is helicoptered in to a training facility on a remote island. The facility, a cross between the fake town at Quantico made famous by so many films, and an abandoned power plant left over from a dystopian fantasy like Brazil, is presided over by the famous, and eccentric Jake Harris (Val Kilmer) who is in danger of losing his little kingdom due to complaints about his eccentric training methods. The students, led by studly J.D. Reston (Christian Slater), is given an assignment. They must use their profiling knowledge and the facilities available to them to catch a serial killer, 'The Puppeteer'. Soon, however, their adventure becomes horrifyingly real when J.D. is killed in an ingenious and grotesque way and the group has to use all of their knowledge and skills to track down a real serial killer who has infiltrated their midst, before they are picked off one by one. 

The film relies heavily on a Chinese Puzzle box of a screenplay (Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin) which keeps changing direction and upsetting expectations, at least for the first two thirds of the film. The last piece more or less runs out of gas when the number of surviving characters has dwindled to three and we get a very standard female in jeopardy sequence that could have been lifted from any one of dozens of other, and better, films. There are the requisite Rube Goldberg methods of dispatching characters that prey upon their weaknesses, creepy and troubling clues, and mounting levels of paranoia as each new victim is offed. It becomes a kind of game for the viewer to try and predict who's next and just how it will happen. 

This film is all about script and style. Character sketches are perfunctory at best. As there are no real characters, only types, real actors aren't really needed and the lesser luminaries of Hollywood who appear do fine. Amongst the twenty and thirty somethings who are dispatched are Jonny Lee Miller, once considered a rising young star in Britain before a failed marriage to Angelina Jolie and bad career choices; Patricia Velasquez, best known for wearing a whole lot of body paint and not much else in The Mummy; rapper LL Cool J; ex-ballet dancer Will Kemp; Kathryn Morris from Cold Case; and Eion Bailey from Band of Brothers. None of them make much of an impression as they are mainly pawns on a chessboard, bent to the will of the mechanics of the screenplay. 

Harlin makes good use of Charles Wood's production design and Robert Gantz's cinematography to create an air of creepiness and cleverly disguises that his Dutch locations are not the coastal edifices we think they are. It's a good looking film and Harlin is a good enough director to give it a consistency of pace and tone which make it eminently watchable. Too bad he didn't find it necessary to people it with some characters we might care something about. In the end, Mindhunters is a soft drink left open too long - no bubble and fizz and no nutritive value whatsoever. 

Helicopter landing. Exploding boat. Toppling dominoes. Liquid nitrogen to flesh. Gratuitous 'Smoking is bad for you' message. Stopped watches. Gratuitous 'Coffee is bad for you' message. Bloody writing. Gratuitous Val Kilmer. Near electrocution. Near drowning.

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