Saturday, March 18, 2017


I don't know this for a fact, but I'm betting that the production of MINDHUNTERS (2004) went something like this.

The producers had a limited amount of money to spend on this film. They needed a "big" name or two or three to sell it. The "big" names that they got were Val Kilmer, Christian Slater and LL Cool J. Trouble is, they didn't have a lot of money to spend on these actors so the screenplay does away with both Kilmer and Slater in the first act, leaving LL to carry the rest of the film, supported by a cast of no-names. Raise your hand and keep it up if you've ever heard of any of these people: Kathryn Morris, Jonny Lee Miller, Clifton Collins, Jr., Patricia Velasquez, Eion Bailey and Will Kemp.

I didn't think so.

Doesn't matter if they're known or not because they only exist as cardboard characters to be killed in this cliched and predictable thriller from genre hack director Renny Harlin. Kilmer is the FBI agent in charge of training a group of profilers. He takes them to a deserted island off of the coast of North Carolina. The island is named Omega. How's that for foreshadowing? The team, led by Slater, is left on the island to solve a string of staged serial killings. It's all an elaborate test to challenge their various skills in the art of profiling.

But that's not what's really going on. Turns out the profilers are the intended victims of a real serial killer who starts knocking them off one by one in a series of elaborately staged death traps. Surprise, the killer is one of them. Double surprise: the killer fakes his/her death. If you've seen AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (1945) (among many others), you've seen this basic plot set up.

The screenplay by Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin, doesn't just strain credulity, it shatters it. The death traps are ridiculously elaborate, Rube Goldberg-like contraptions with extraordinarily gruesome results. They're more like something you'd see in a DR. PHIBES horror film than something concocted by a real person in the 21st century.

The climax involves two characters fighting underwater for a very, very long time. Their battle even includes a gunfight! Just how long can two people hold their respective breaths underwater while engaged in a fight to the death? The answer is several minutes, if we're to believe what happens here. Every cliche and trope of the genre is placed on a list to be checked off as the plot progresses. Everything is predictable, right down to the final twist, double twist and triple twist ending. There are no surprises here, just an utterly routine generic thriller that will seem fresh and new to anyone who's never seen any of the dozens of other films exactly like this one.

 You have to wonder, if the producers had had just a little bit more money, could they have gotten some bigger stars and paid them enough to have them stick around longer?

I think Sid Melton was still available in 2004.

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