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STUDIO: Buena Vista Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 106 Minutes
• A Director’s Walk Through Crimetown featurette
• Audio commentary by director Renny Harlin
• Profiling Mindhunters featurette
• Stunt sequence
A few years ago director Renny Harlin, the man behind award winning films like Cutthroat Island and A Nightmare on Elm Street IV: The Dream Master, filmed a movie called Mindhunters. This movie was scheduled for release in 2003 when Se7en-esque crime dramas were only five years past their prime. That year came and went. It was pushed back to 2004, but the film would not see a release in that year either. After a lengthy divorce process between Disney and Miramax, the mouse company took possession of this unwanted child. In 2005, Mindhunters was finally fostered onto a public that couldn’t care less.
The public didn’t care because Mindhunters is a stupid movie. Not just stupid though. It’s a film so stupid that you will feel violated after viewing it. It’s so stupid that every person with a mind should feel offended just because the film dares to use the word "mind" in its title. The film never makes an attempt to explain the incredibly asinine events that unfold in the story. The traps in the movie require such precision and improbable amounts of luck that your head could explode trying to deduce how such things are possible. The ending is full of enough double and triple twists that it makes M. Night Shyamalan films look pedestrian. In short, Mindhunters is quite possibly one of the most insultingly stupid films of all time – and I loved every minute of it.
Scar your children for the rest of their lives with a Cenobite themed birthday party!
A young group of FBI agents are training to become criminal profilers. They’ve finished all the classroom work and have made a few practice field tests – now it’s time for their final exam. Their teacher, Jake Harris (Val Kilmer), has access to a remote island used by the military for training. Once a year he turns it into the final testing ground for his young recruits. The students will be left on the island and cut off from all outside contact. A series of fake murders will occur and the students will have to use the clues provided to find out who and where the killer is.
The recruits are joined in their test by a last minute addition. Gabe Jensen (LL Cool J) tags along to observe Harris’ training methods and to issue a report about them to his superiors. He will remain with the recruits and participate in the exercise. The recruits have a bit of fun goofing off on the island before the test begins, but many of them are worried about passing it.
Something goes horribly wrong the next morning, when the investigation of the fake crime scene results in one of the recruits dying in an elaborate trap. It doesn’t take long before the group realizes that someone is turning the exercise into a deadly game. The group tries to find a way off the island and apprehend the person behind the traps who could very well be one of their own.
I’m a sucker for trap films. I absolutely loved Cube, Final Destination and Saw. All of those movies are very stupid but very fun to watch. Each of those films gives the impression that the traps were the first things designed and a movie was written around them. Mindhunters is no different. The plot is full of contrivances and the motivations of the characters make absolutely no sense. The story is just a necessary device needed to put the characters in the positions where the traps will go off. It’s a process akin to setting up a Domino Rally set or playing Mouse Trap.
Note: Using a cat’s blood for toothpaste is not recommended by the ADA.
Since no one pays any thought to the story the filmmakers are free to come up with the most insane and clever traps possible. Mindhunters contains a mix of highly inventive traps along with some rather uninspired but gorey ones. The film’s first trap makes great use of liquid nitrogen canisters to create a particularly shocking and unexpected death. Unfortunately, it’s the best trap in the film which makes all the ones that come after it seem lesser in comparison.
Each trap is tailored towards the strengths and weaknesses of the character that falls into it. This is explained by the villain towards the end of the film. The villain must have had psychic powers to figure out some of the traps or be incredibly lucky. Figuring that a particular person is going to set off a trap based on the fact that “he’s the guy who fixes things” probably isn’t the best way to go about it. The audience could care less why a particular character falls into a trap though. People just want to see characters bite it in as brutal a way as possible. It may make me a bad person, but seeing any character escape a trap leaves me feeling cheated. Mindhunters has a few escapes, but for the most part it delivers on its premise.
The fact that the traps are the selling point of this film should be fairly obvious given the casting choices. Val Kilmer is great, but in this film he’s basically stopping in for a quick paycheck before making a better film. That leaves the dynamite group of LL Cool J, Christian Slater, Kathryn Morris and Jonny Lee Miller to carry the film.
Morris is primarily a television actress whose defining acting trait is her hair. After viewing her acting work in Mindhunters, I’d recommend that she never get a hair cut because that’s all she has going for her. Miller, aka “Zero Cool” and “Crash Override,” pulls off the incredible feat of sneering for the entire 106 minute run time while switching in and out of accents.
Spring into action!
LL Cool J is best known for enraging people because of his amazing inability to die in whatever film he appears in. I don’t want to spoil whether or not he survives this film, but if you’re not a total moron you can probably guess correctly. To say Christian Slater has hit a rough patch in his career is an understatement. He seems resigned to playing himself in each and every new film. It’s kind of sad when an actor really begins to become indistinguishable from a caricature of him on Saturday Night Live.
Renny Harlin is his normal self when it comes to directing this film, but in a movie this stupid having Harlin behind the camera is an advantage. A director with all the subtly of a porn director is going to give you all the intricate close-ups of the trap mechanisms that you need in order to start getting excited about watching someone fall victim to it. A director of a higher caliber may have been able to salvage the moronic and unintelligible ending, but by that point the film can’t possibly be redeemed so it’s a moot point.
If you’re the type of person who cannot accept a movie full of errors and inconsistencies, Mindhunters will enrage you so much you might just have an aneurism or post a twenty page tirade on an internet forum. If you have no problem in accepting good natured stupidity, Mindhunters is a lot of fun to watch despite its infinite number of flaws.
6.0 out of 10
LL Cool J’s worst nightmare – Locked in a room with the focus group for Rollerball.
Mindhunters is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen enhanced for 16×9 televisions. Buena Vista has had practically forever to work on the DVD transfer for this film and they’ve used their time well. Color levels remain consistent throughout the film and there’s no grain to speak of. For a film as intentionally dark as this one, the clear transfer is appreciated.
9.0 out of 10
If you have so many watches you need to impale a hook in your hand to support your arm, it’s time to re-evaluate your life.
The disc features a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track. Renny Harlin just loves to pound “tension” music through the back speakers at every single opportunity. The film starts out slow but towards the end there are plenty of explosions and gunshots to blast your speakers. The foley effects are so loud that even Miller’s wimpy punches sound like they could hurt.
8.0 out of 10
The incredible acting talents of Kathryn Morris.
The primary extra is a feature commentary with Renny Harlin. His commentary is informative and he keeps talking the entire time. Harlin knows a great deal of information about every aspect of the film’s creation. He even has something to add about the opening logos before the film begins. His gravely voice is oddly soothing, and in combination with his accent I couldn’t help but want to hear him talk about how he couldn’t believe it wasn’t butter. The downside to Harlin’s serious discussion of the film is that he obviously doesn’t believe that it’s stupid and never makes light of the film’s numerous flaws. I don’t know whether that’s funny or tragic.
Profiling Mindhunters is a short feature that lets you see Harlin working on the set. A brief tour of the sets is given and some of the actors wax philosophic about the deep and intricate plot. Harlin adds more comedy by talking about how true to life he wanted to make the film and how important it was for the actors to act like real agents. After laughing at the film’s stupidity, hearing the director describe it as “brilliant” and “so scary” is like peering into bizarro world.
Instead of producing a feature that goes into detail about constructing the traps, a feature is done on the film’s lone fight scene. It’s not a very good fight scene but it’s nice that the actual actors performed it instead of stuntmen. An additional featurette follows Harlin as he walks through the film’s primary sets. The shooting location in Holland actually is used for military exercises. A feature that explored what actual military personnel do there would have been more interesting. Numerous features could have been produced with how long it took this film to be released. Instead you get a few Renny Harlin home movies since he’s the only one willing to defend the film.
4.0 out of 10
Harlin shows off the incredible graphics of Hogan’s Alley 2k6
The DVD art opts for featuring the leads in generic poses rather than using the theatrical art. Nothing says “FBI profiler thriller” like LL Cool J flexing his tattooed arms on the cover. Searching desperately for a positive quote to use on the cover, they feature a positive blurb from WBAI Radio. The art makes it appear as if the title has been changed from “Mindhunters” to “Mind Hunters.” Maybe a focus group told Dimension that they prefer movies with spaces in the title.
Nothing in this artwork will make the film stand out from the myriad of other generic thrillers, but it is most likely the only time in the history of the world when you will see Jonny Lee Miller get billing above Val Kilmer. That has to count for something.
3.0 out of 10