Title: Mindhunters
Year: 2004
Genre: Crime, Horror, Mystery
Play time: 
Director: Renny Harlin
Screenwriters: Wayne Kramer
Starring: Val Kilmer, LL Cool J, Christian Slater

Say what you will about Renny Harlin’s taste in movies, but the man is a world-class filmmaker — considering the schlock he normally chooses to direct, it is at least somewhat impressive that up until now, I have never disliked a Renny Harlin film (note: I have not seen Driven). I do not blame him for Mindhunters, as I assume he did not have a hand in the screenplay, which is easily one of the dumbest for any film budgeted over 25 million dollars. It is awful; it is terrible; these characters simply must be the dumbest profiler class that the FBI has ever had. One of the writers cut his teeth on a particularly weak Steven Seagal effort, but I would bet on Seagal against any of these losers in an intellectual cage match.

How dumb are they? Well, one of them (Patricia Velasquez, sexy for a profiler), has been trying rather unsuccessfully to quit smoking so, when she and her class are on a deserted island with a killer who is taking them out one by one with a series of increasingly elaborate booby traps, she decides to pick up and smoke a pack of cigarettes that mysteriously drops out of a random vending machine. This is after she suddenly decides that she will be safer if she goes wandering around the island by herself.

There is, of course, a gigantic red herring, this time in the form of LL Cool J as a city policeman sinisterly tagging along with the would-be profilers on their “training mission.” When people start dying, everyone becomes convinced that he is the culprit, and their response is to tie him up and start kicking him while yelling “where is the next trap,” hear him deny any knowledge of said trap, and then repeat the process several more times. Their suspicion later shifts to someone else and their reaction is precisely the same. These are some unproductive profilers.

Who the hell needs this many profilers, anyway? Are serial murderers really so rampant that the FBI finds it necessary to spend millions of dollars sending a half-dozen of them to an island so that they can solve a convoluted puzzle, complete with an entire fake town, a laboratory, and occasionally a musical score? The Val Kilmer character is absolutely hilarious — he is a wizened, hardened profile trainer, you see.

I suppose that these are very much the “questions you are not supposed to ask,” but what can I say? It is not that the film is goofy; I would have loved to see goofy. Instead, it is simply stupid, hopelessly dense and never for a second self-aware. It is one of those movies where the bad guy leaves the hero detective(s) an impossibly convoluted set of clues and crumb trails, and sometimes our favorite team of profilers unexpectedly becomes the Mensa championship team, piecing together the ridiculous puzzle with a skill that would out Nicolas Cage in National Treasure to shame.

The ending features several plot twists of astonishing pointlessness, but my favorite part is how the screenplay reduces LL Cool J to a tagline machine. He gets to spout lines like “time’s up, asshole” (the killer is obsessed with time, see), “good thing you hit like a girl,” and the best of the bunch, “I guess we found out his weakness — bullets!” Bullets indeed, LL. Bullets indeed.

Mindhunters was originally supposed to be released in early 2004, but it sat on the shelf at Miramax for over a year. It will finally see the light of day in mid-May, a week before the release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. It will rightfully be clobbered. Renny Harlin can do overt silliness (Cliffhanger, Cutthroat Island), or he can do grandiose, perhaps unwarranted self-righteousness (Exorcist: The Beginning). This brand of obtuseness, though, is a bit much even for him.


Seeking in movies meaning and reflection in real-time. On the look out for biography, thriller & drama best pieces.

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