As far as preposterous, imbecilic thrillers go, “Mindhunters” is a fun one. I didn’t believe a minute of it, and all my laughter was at its expense (the film itself is deadly serious), but I was never bored by it, either. It’s in the category of movies, like “Cellular” and “Timeline,” that I can’t really recommend, but that I wouldn’t exactly discourage anyone from seeing, either.
It’s about a group of FBI profilers-in-training who are whisked away by their unconventional, borderline psychopath trainer (Val Kilmer) to a Navy-owned island for a weekend of final tests and drills. The main event is that a crime will be simulated, with appropriate clues left behind, that they will have to solve. But wouldn’t you know it, while investigating the manufactured crime scene, a real crime occurs, insofar as one of the trainees is killed by an elaborate booby trap.
Well, what better for a final exam, you know? The survivors are in panic mode now, looking for a way off the island (there isn’t one) or a means of communicating with the mainland (forget it). And, as always happens when a small band of characters is trapped in an isolated location, they begin to die one by one, the killer apparently being among them. It’s Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” — or the 1985 film “Clue,” if you prefer — by way of “Seven” (because, you see, these FBI profilers are being profiled by the murderer and dispatched according to their individual strengths and weaknesses).
In the beginning, the potential suspects and victims are led by Sara (Kathryn Morris), an unsure woman with a tendency to freeze up under stress who is still processing a previous trauma. Her FBI partner is J.D. (Christian Slater), whose sexual partner is Nicole (Patricia Velasquez), a tough-as-nails cigarette smoker who, if it weren’t for the sex with J.D., would be a lesbian.
Sara’s buddy (platonic, so far) is Lucas (Jonny Lee Miller), a Southern boy with an obvious crush on her. There’s also Rafe (Will Kemp), an Irish national (what’s HE doing in the FBI?); Bobby (Eion Bailey), a non-descript handsome American; and Vince (Clifton Collins Jr.), who is confined to a wheelchair since being shot some time ago and who now goes nowhere without his gun. They’re all joined at the last minute by Gabe Jensen (LL Cool J), a Philadelphia detective who’s along to observe their tactics, ostensibly, though there is more to it than that.
The one smart move in the screenplay (by Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin) is to have the murders occur via booby trap rather than overt act. When someone is, say, stabbed to death, you can figure out who did it by determining where everyone was at the time of the stabbing. But when it’s a complicated, set-in-advance trap, it doesn’t matter where the killer is. He or she could be having dinner with five witnesses at the time of the murder and still be the murderer.
That said, these booby traps rely on A LOT of foreknowledge and luck. Somehow the killer seems to know exactly who will respond to each crisis, and how they will respond, and thus moves everyone around like chess pieces in a most outrageous, comical fashion. It doesn’t matter if your strategy is to barricade yourself in your room and wait for rescue from the mainland. The killer KNEW you would do that, and a deadly cobra has already been stashed in your bed sheets. SO THERE!
Renny Harlin, of so many vigorously foolish movies I need hardly name them (OK, “Exorcist: The Beginning,” “Deep Blue Sea” and “Cutthroat Island”), directed this thing, which was finished almost three years ago and has been scheduled and rescheduled for release several times since then. That doesn’t speak well of its quality, but in truth it’s no worse than a lot of movies that receive full support from their studios and are given prominent release dates. It has the requisite number of false leads, twists and surprises, including two or three that make no sense whatsoever. One of them even relies on the old standby of a character being able to hold his or her breath underwater for well over two minutes — a classic indeed.
C (1 hr., 46 min.; )