Saying super-hack Renny Harlin is no Agatha Christie might be the understatement of the millennium, but since the director’s long-delayed Mindhunters is clearly modeled after And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians), a comparison is nonetheless unavoidable. A typical Harlin debacle in which noxious noisiness (in the guise of generic heavy metal) and hyperactivity (thanks to humdrum CSI-style montages) bludgeon one’s mind into a docile stupor, this Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin-scripted thriller concerns a group of F.B.I. profilers-in-training who are sent by their wacko instructor (Val Kilmer) to an empty Alcatraz-style military complex to participate in a final serial killer-tracking exercise. There, the eight cocky law enforcement pups—including Christian Slater, Cold Case‘s Kathryn Morris, Jonny Lee Miller, The Mummy‘s Patricia Velasquez, and a suspicious new team member played by LL Cool J—begin dying at the hands of a real-life villain who seems to have profiled them and, thus, knows how to exploit each of their Achilles’ heels. And since they’re all alone on the island base, the crew knows one of their comrades is the murderer.
Unlike Christie’s legendary suspense yarn, Harlin’s whodunit doesn’t bother with trivial details like character development, mystery, or logic. Instead, what’s offered is a preposterous setting, excessively intricate death traps involving dominos and mannequins, characters primarily defined by their wardrobe and hairstyles (and, in the case of Miller, a supremely ludicrous Southern accent), whiz-bang, CGI-inflicted camerawork, and a finale in which the evil mastermind’s identity appears to have been chosen via a hurried game of eenie-meenie-minie-mo. Even Kilmer, usually a reliable source of loose-cannon campiness in fiascos such as this, is reduced to a disappointingly brief (and sane) cameo, and his final appearance brazenly rips off (albeit with more gore) a memorable moment from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors. LL remains too cool to be dragged down by Mindhunters‘s mind-numbing nonsense, and the climactic line spoken after the killer is vanquished (“I guess we found out his/her weakness: bullets”) comes across as a humorous parody of action-movie writing. But just as its characters incessantly scrutinize the timepiece clues left by the slayer, don’t be surprised to spend the majority of the film checking your watch.
Mindhunters is a dark film, and as such it's difficult to accurately judge the brief flashes of light and color visible throughout-but the slate-and-cobalt cinematography is a thing of pristine beauty and all that really matters here. The sound is loud, but it's all good: dialogue is clear and the rich surround work resonates across the entire sound stage with a rich and accurate fidelity.
Three brief, run-of-the-mill featurettes and a commentary track by Renny Harlin, who, in spite of talking about a lot of useless stuff like getting the okay to legally use cigarettes in the film, comes off as surprisingly personable. I mean, how can you dog a guy with an accent for referring to Mariah Carey as Maria Carey and hiring one of his actors, Will Kemp, because he liked his work in that all-male production of Swan Lake that was all the rage several years back?
Iny, miny, mino, mo. Who's the next motherfucker to go?