After watching the trailer for “Mindhunters” I was sure I knew who the ‘mastermind’ behind the plot was. Well, I was wrong. But this is the type of film that ensures that no one could guess the outcome, even while watching the film, because the outcome makes no sense what-so-ever.
Jake Harris (Val Kilmer) is training an elite group of seven future profilers for the FBI. Disappointed with their training so far, he decides to send them to a remote island, set up for both Navy Seal training and training each of his classes. At the last minute, a detective for the Philadelphia PD (LL Cool J) tags along for the ride. Arriving on the island, they are told that they must locate the crime scene and profile “The Puppetmaster” before the end of the weekend. Soon, it becomes apparent that they are being hunted and will have to put their ‘wits’ together and work as a team to find the killer.
Director Renny Harlin (“Die Hard 2”, “Cliffhanger”) has sure scraped the bottom of the barrel with this one. Remember when he used to make enjoyable films? With recent films like “Driven”, “Exorcist: The Beginning” and “Mindhunters”, my memory continues to fade.
The trouble with most ‘thrillers’ today is that they want to keep everyone guessing all of the time. Red herrings are thrown at the viewer left and right, with little attention paid to any clues. “Mindhunters” is such a ‘thriller’, and I use the term loosely.
The seven trainees are quickly deposited on a deserted island, 50 miles off the coast of North Carolina. There, they find a simulated small town, bank, main street, movie theater playing “The Third Man”, complete with dummies everywhere. This is probably the most effective part of the film. As they walk through the ‘town’, we notice the bullet holes everywhere and it adds a level of creepiness to the proceedings. But this isn’t enough for the filmmakers. The island also has a large building, which appears to be a power plant but looks like a fort, where the recruits sleep, eat, have sex. Naturally, the majority of the action takes place in this building with brief forays into the mock town.
Most thrillers made today are just dumb. The filmmakers have no confidence in the audience and feel that they must telegraph every twist and turn. In this case, the weakness of every character will be used against them. We know this because every character constantly talks about their weaknesses. We realize this much sooner than the characters in the film, the people who are supposed to be future FBI Profilers. I thought Profilers were supposed to be smart? I guess I was wrong.
There are also endless scenes of the characters facing off against one another. As soon as someone posits a theory about who the Puppetmaster is, the remaining characters pull out their guns and point them at the person who posed the theory. Their feelings are that if someone can figure out who the killer is, they must be the killer. This is about as intelligent as the old grade school theory about people who fart. “Whoever smelt it, dealt it.”
One of the Puppetmaster’s calling cards is to leave a watch with a time, telling the recruits when the next murder will take place. This helps build suspense for about five minutes. The second time they find a watch, the characters go about trying to figure out what will happen before it happens. This is about the only thing they do right. At one point, the killers leaves two watches with the same time on them. Now, what would you do in this case? Naturally, the characters split up into groups of two and search the building. I think I might stick with the group, keeping everyone together. Two watches, two killings, right? It might be unwise for the group to break up into the exact number of people that the killer is targeting. But I am actually putting more thought into this than necessary. Wait a minute! I must be the killer!
By the time we get to the final reveal, we realize that this is one of those films that is going to have multiple reveals. Unless we saw their head fall off or their legs get blasted with liquid nitrogen, they could come back and factor into the finale. As mentioned before, the final reveal makes no sense because there are no clues leading us there. The screenwriters have been influenced by a lot of bad television mysteries. You know, the type where the detective wanders around for almost an hour investigating a bunch of leads and then the killer is actually someone we would never suspect, just to make it more exciting.
The film’s ensemble cast features Val Kilmer, LL Cool J, Christian Slater, Jonny Lee Miller (“Melinda and Melinda”) and Kathryn Morris (TV’s “Cold Case). Are any of them any good? Not really.
“Mindhunters” was made over two years ago and was supposed to be released in the fall of 2003. Clearly, someone at Dimension realized there were problems with the film and delayed the release. Why they didn’t just release it to DVD is beyond me.