Originally created 05/12/05

Review: 'Mindhunters'



If anyone finds Renny Harlin's mind, please return it.

He's been making movies for years without it, and he clearly needs it back.

Following such messes as "Deep Blue Sea," "Driven" and last year's "Exorcist: The Beginning," Harlin's latest debacle is the ridiculous serial-killer tale "Mindhunters," about FBI profilers being picked off one by one during a training exercise on a remote island.

A sharp cast led by LL Cool J, Kathryn Morris, Jonny Lee Miller, Val Kilmer and Christian Slater is unceremoniously tossed into this meat-grinder and left to rot in its bloody excess.

A couple of the grisly, build-a-better-mousetrap methods used to snuff victims are kind of cool. But innumerable plot absurdities and the clueless fingerpointing of the profilers-in-training ("You're the killer!" "No, you are!") make "Mindhunters" an empty-headed affair.

The basic story is lifted from Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None," about 10 people invited to an island where they are bumped off one at a time.

"Mindhunters" is set on a Navy training island where seven wannabe bureau profilers (Slater, Morris, Miller, Clifton Collins Jr., Will Kemp, Patricia Velasquez and Eion Bailey) are dispatched for final exams, a head game in which they must track a make-believe serial killer.

Joining them is a Philadelphia cop (LL Cool J) who has been given permission to ride shotgun and observe their profiling methods.

The shindig has been planned by the profilers' headmaster (Kilmer), a mysterious mentor who supposedly has left them to their own devices on the island but who may have remained behind in hiding.

The group's collective cockiness evaporates after one of the crew is killed by a dastardly trap laid at a fictional crime scene.

Soon, the survivors are alternately blubbering and pointing guns at one another as they conclude the killer walks among them. As the level head, Morris maintains a degree of equanimity, but the profilers mostly stumble thoughtlessly from one trap to the next.

Clues indicate that two of them might be killed within the next 10 minutes. So what do they do? Pair off and separate.

The island's many buildings provide cover for a thousand madmen to hide in, yet the gang never really entertains the notion that an outsider has infiltrated the joint. Viewers are simply instructed that these are brainy crimefighters, and if they say the killer is one of their own, then the killer must be one of their own.

It's one of many cheats built into the screenplay credited to Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin. Kramer, writer-director of the nice little casino romance "The Cooler," also has story credit for "Mindhunters"; let's give him benefit of the doubt that his original draft was a more credible story before Harlin and his collaborators stuck their fingers in it.

"Mindhunters," released by Miramax's Dimension Films, is rated R violence/strong graphic images, language and sexual content. Running time: 106 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.