Mindhunters has become the movie that Miramax has been determined that no-one should see. And as any self-respecting moviegoer knows, this is never a good sign. First off, filming was completed in early spring 2002. This means, at the latest, it should have debuted winter 2002/early 2003. But for reasons unexplained release date after release date was pushed back until the week before its “definite” opening date in late January 2004, it was suddenly pushed back “indefinitely”. Well indefinitely is now, since the movie is now slated for a May 13, 2005 release in just a few weeks. I’ll believe it when I see it. Despite all the release shifting, Mindhunters is neither a great movie, nor as bad as anything Neal Moritz has subjected the movie-going world to.
So, where do we begin? Mindhunters takes its primary cues from Silence Of The Lambs and CSI, in that all our protagonists are trainee FBI profilers – those paid to get inside the mind of a serial killer and work out motives and methods in the hopes of identifying them and bringing them to justice. A small group of these trainees are put under the tutelage of arrogant, egocentric profiler Jake Harris (Kilmer sporting bad 80s hair), who’s extreme teaching methods have his superiors twitching.
As a final test to see if they make the grade, the seven strong group (including a completely out of place looking Christian Slater and an accent grinding Jonny Lee Miller) are shipped off to a remote island to profile a simulated serial killer on a deserted Navy Seals training complex. Tagging along for the ride is Gabe Jenkins (LL Cool J pimpin’ for Renny Harlin again), a detective sent by his bosses for reasons unknown. Quicker than you can say “horror movie cliché” the serial killer isn’t just a simulation any more; it’s a real live person stalking the group and using a series of traps to pick them off one by one. As the traps eventually lead to a pattern it soon becomes clear that the killer may not be a third party, but one of the group itself.
What has the potential for an interesting psychological thriller is, in all honesty, just a run of the mill horror-thriller. People get isolated, act dumb, get killed one by one by an unknown enemy until the last 10 minutes etc etc. Characters fit into their required stereotypes and as a group vary between being super-cool under pressure FBI agents using their skills to trace the killer, to terminally dumb horror movie victims waving guns, shouting each other down and back again. I’m not an FBI profiler and even I found myself shouting patently obvious facts at the screen 15 minutes before our so-called “experts” twigged. However, the various deaths inflicted upon the cast are quite novel and gruesome. One in particular will take you aback and will no doubt please most movie fans.
All of this is forgivable in the world of horror. At this point it is basically expected. However, Mindhunters’ biggest let down is in its final act. As is always the way these days, there is a supposed twist. But really, the way it’s played out and revealed makes little sense. I can’t say much more without spoiling details, but if you see it you’ll know what I mean.
Harlin directs pretty straight, with only a few ill-judged attempts at Michael Bay style editing. A big fight scene is well choreographed with a real feeling of impact but then a half decent action scene has been Harlin’s only ace-card for the past seventeen years. The cast is mainly made up of unknowns with a couple of stars-of-the-80s (Kilmer and Slater take a bow) thrown in for credibility and our “obligatory rapper” doing a passable job as the shady outsider. No-one stands out but no-one is really bad. For some reason it reminds me of Alien Resurrection in this respect, don’t ask me why.
The truth is Mindhunters is standard B-movie horror much like Harlin’s previous outing Deep Blue Sea. It’s not classic cinema by any means, but neither is it in the realms of product-placing superficial flash like many no-brainer releases. It’s just run-of-the-mill. It offers nothing new or surprising but is an inoffensive way to spend 90 minutes on a dull weeknight. This only reiterates the question of why it has received such short shrift, when the very same distributor is guilty of subjecting us to much worse in recent times (*cough*ScaryMovie3*cough*).