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This Kills 

I love my work. I get to watch movies and then get paid for sharing my thoughts about them. It's really a dream job.

Except when it becomes a nightmare.

The experience of sitting here, trying to figure out how to review Mr. Brooks, is definitely taking on the shape of a nightmare. Here's the problem: Due to the nature of the film -- which includes intricate plot twist devices and a bizarre intermeshing of stories -- no matter what I write about it, I'll be giving away something of importance, something you just don't want to know before seeing it.

It's not right to reveal things that potential viewers wouldn't want to know beforehand. Reviews should help moviegoers decide if they have any interest in a film without revealing too much about it.

In writing about Mr. Brooks, I'm being put to the test, because it's literally filled with things to give away.

But I'm game to try, and I'll begin by giving something away -- something that's revealed in the first few minutes of the film. It'll definitely help you decide whether to get in line or skip it. And although I think the film is the berries, there will be a number of you out there who are going to want to skip it.

Kevin Costner stars as Earl Brooks, a successful businessman who shares his happy home with his adoring wife (Marg Helgenberger) and who has a great relationship with his daughter (Danielle Panabaker) who has just returned -- under mysterious circumstances -- from college. Our Mr. Brooks, however, is a serial killer, a man actually addicted to killing. He has had his urges under control for some time but is now again falling under their spell. And his inner demon, who is causing this recurrence, accompanies him everywhere -- going by the name of Marshall, and played with over-the-top villainous glee by William Hurt. Of course, only Mr. Brooks can hear or see him, and can carry on conversations with only him, even if other people are around.

This film is insane. It's also mesmerizing, violent and darkly funny.

Much of its success is due to the controlled performance by Costner, an actor who, for some reason, is linked in the minds of viewers as always playing good guys. But he portrayed a dangerous escaped convict in the underrated A Perfect World, and presented the epitome of a sociopath in the little-seen 3000 Miles to Graceland. In this one, he's a man with a problem, one that he hopes regular attendance at AA meetings will control. But this has nothing to do with drinking. While others in his group stand and introduce themselves as alcoholics, he stands, gives his name, then says, "I'm an addict."

It's a film loaded with people who are dealing with problems. Demi Moore, in an excellent performance, plays a detective on the killer's trail, but she's in the midst of a nasty divorce from a money-grubbing jerk (Jason Lewis). She also learns that a heinous felon (Matt Schulze) she once put away has escaped -- and that he might be coming after her. Then there's the reason (or is it reasons?) that Mr. Brooks' daughter has come home. There's also someone calling himself "Mr. Smith" (Dane Cook), who witnessed one of Mr. Brooks' killings and wants to get in on the thrill of it all.

Director Bruce A. Evans keeps things going at a rapid pace, always staying in control of the complexities. The film never flags, whether spotlighting an intense and absurd conversation between Mr. Brooks and Marshall, or erupting into a loud and bloody action sequence. Best of all, it features a "killer" ending. But rather than explaining those quotation marks, I'll just let those of you who are still interested figure them out for yourselves.

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