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Director: Renny Harlin

Producers: Cary Brokaw, Akiva Goldsman, Robert F. Newmeyer, Rebecca Spikings

Written by: Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin

Cast: Christian Slater, Val Kilmer, LL Cool J, Kathryn Morris, Johnny Lee Miller, Patricia Velasquez


Mindhunters director Renny Harlin deserves some respect. Not a lot, but some.

Over the years Renny has plied his trade, diligently churning out mindless but entertaining action hackwork. He made Cliffhanger one of the very few enjoyable films in Sly Stallone’s body of work. His Long Kiss Goodnight may be the most underrated action film of the ’90s, and with Deep Blue Sea, he could lay claim to the second-greatest shark film ever made. On the other hand, he is responsible for Cutthroat Island, the film that asked the question, “Can Matthew Modine carry a big summer blockbuster?” The answer of course was a resounding “NO” that sunk the film’s studio (Carlaco) and almost the entire pirate genre.

So we’ve come to expect certain things from Renny, but we also have certain expectations about films that have been shelved for years as Mindhunters has. And these are not usually good expectations. Throw in a couple of semi-washed-up stars like Slater and Kilmer and you could say that this is a film with a cloud hanging over its head, but if you give Renny a chance I think you’ll find a not-nearly-as-bad-it-might-seem kind of film. If that doesn’t sound like ringing endorsement that’s because isn’t.

Mindhunters’ plot is as banal as its title. A group of good-looking FBI profilers are sent on an training mission to an empty town on island by their unorthodox taskmaster Harris (Kilmer, sleepwalking his way to another paycheck). They’re joined by a stranger from the Philadelphia police department (LL). Soon after landing though the gang finds that it’s actually being tested by a killer who has the whole island rigged and seems to know their every move and habit. Is it one of them? Is it the stranger? Could it be Harris?

Of course it should be no surprise if this seems familiar to you: The basic set up is from Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. It’s been done many times before, most memorably in Howard HawksThe Thing From Another World and John Carpenter’s remake, from which Renny listlessly borrows the blood-testing scene. The whole thing has a borrowed feel to it and none of the characters are interesting, though their dullness has the unintentional effect of making characters’ various fates uncertain. In other words, the movie keeps you on your toes because everyone is expendable. The death traps are fun though (the first being a true Rube Goldberg device). Hitchcock may have famously ignored realism for his thrillers; well Renny does him one better by putting aside reality, internal logic, and the character’s common sense in his efforts to amp up the tension.

Still, despite the silliness and lack of originality, Mindhunters works on the most basic level. It keeps your attention, even if it doesn’t really reward it with much.

—Edward Rholes

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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