The main challenge in this movie is in counting all the ways in which it's
deficient. Its attempt to create a mind game in which a secret killer is
knocking off his or her colleagues is hindered by a mind that's severely
handicapped by lack of the talent necessary to pull it off.
Not that Finish director Renny Harlin ("Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger") and South
African writer Wayne Kramer (the excellent "The Cooler") don't give it a
responsible try. After all, this isn't about a bowling league. The game is
being waged by a group of (supposed) cream-of-the-crop FBI profilers brought
to a remote island for a shot of high-level training. The challenge is
Jake Harris (Val Kilmer) is the challenger. As chief of the Investigative
Support Unit, aka, "Mindhunters," it's his idea to employ unorthodox methods
of training. He sets up a model city of miscreants to simulate real world
threats and helicopters his team of trainees for a few days of capturing bad
guys by the cleverness of their profiling, and then submitting them to a
critique at the end.
Leading the pack is J.D. Reston (Christian Slater) who seems to have a solid
handle on analyzing patterns of behavior. Close behind are Sara Moore
(Kathryn Morris), a testy blond; Nicole Willis (Patricia Velasquez), a dark
haired exotic who is Reston's secret squeeze. Gabe Jensen (LL Cool J) is the
only one brought to the island who isn't a profiler but he's there to observe
and to suggest a hidden agenda, making him the prime suspect when the bodies
start falling. Eion Bailey ("Almost Famous"), Clifton Collins Jr. ("The Last
Castle") and Will Kemp ("Van
Helsing") round out the team.
Once his class of trainees are oriented and charges with their mission, agent
Harris flies off the island and, for the most part, out of the film. The
next great loss is Reston, who stands in front of a tank of liquid nitrogen
in order to be iced to death. I'd say he was complicit in his own murder. In
any case, he's gone for good from the picture and it's barely the first act!
Which, in itself, is most peculiar. What, these guys only had a one week
window in their schedule and their marquee value too good to pass up?
What they leave behind is a one-by-one annihilation of the law
enforcement smarties who should be able to outwit booby traps devised to go
off according to the time on wrist watches found in and around corpses.
Theseto jury rigged contrivances of death, range from cleverly intricate to
laughably inept in their method of lethality.
All of which becomes so ludicrous and unbelievable it becomes a test of the
attention span. Just when you're beginning to lose interest in the
trumped up mystery of who the real killer might be, and think that no one
person, however depraved and technically proficient, could pull off this
series of stunts, the revelation at the end flattens it like a bad joke.
It's a show based on formulaic deception and overconceived methods of murder,
spiced up with near cameo appearances by two high priced talents. The grunt
work of grinding out the rest of the screenplay, despite several strong
performances (LL Cool J is, indeed, cool and precise), fails to generate much
more character bonding than "Scream" and its derivatives. The result of this
failure of cleverness is a killer thriller exploit that will hold some appeal
for audiences that tense up in enjoyment at every fresh spurt of blood and
ask for little more.
~~ Jules Brenner