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 Mindhunters
 Critic's Rating
   [B+]
 Date Posted
   21st June, 2004
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Cast: Val Kilmer, LL Cool J, Christian Slater
Director: Renny Harlin

Throw action, horror, suspense and the slasher/thriller genres in a blender. What do you get? Fertilizer if you have the wrong chef in the kitchen. "Mindhunters" is wholly palatable because our host is Finnish director Renny Harlin, an old hand at making genre material ("Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger," "Long Kiss Goodnight"). Now Harlin is no visionary but his films have a workman quality. His contribution here is symphonised by a very clever script by Wayne Kramer (writer/director of critically acclaimed "The Cooler") who takes commonly-held film genre rules and bends them. While Kramer supplies the twists and crisp verbiage, Harlin exploits every opportunity in the screenplay to apply his edgy visual configuration: Sharp camera angles, screen filters and fast edits. It's a delectable blend of craft and technique designed for a specific target audience.

Though the premise of "Mindhunters" is not original, it is irresistible. A group of aspiring men and women enroll in a FBI programme under Harris (Val Kilmer), an unconventional trainer who mentors them in the art of profiling serial killers. His methods are unpopular: Harris puts his group through simulations in order to give them a taste of reality. For their final exam he takes them on a deserted island and leaves them there with the task to explicate a fictitious serial killer. There's only one problem. When the trainees start to die for real (in unique and mostly gruesome ways) it becomes clear that one of them is playing the proverbial grim reaper. That is all you need to know about the story. Val Kilmer has an extended cameo, a small but integral role. But Kilmer looks bored. It hardly matters as the onus of the character development rests on the shoulders of the FBI trainees, an ensemble cast of competent actors who give believable performances. I won't name them. It's part of the charm!

The suspense in the story holds water; the identity of the killer will be difficult to guess. For example, even in the last few minutes and just like the trainees - we still don't know who to trust. Some may call this over-plotting but I thought it was a smart and created mystery; although the effect is inferior in comparison, the interplay of shifting suspicions did remind me of the extreme paranoia in John Carpenter's classic "The Thing."

"Mindhunters" is of a world where legions of fans worship such cult offerings as "Scream," "Hellraiser" and "Identity."  Because this film incredulously embraces the different genres it pays tribute to, if there was any pretense I didn't detect it. Let me give you another reason to see the film: "Mindhunters" has yet to come out on the big screen in the US. Its theatrical release in this region is something of a small exclusive, one that no eager beaver can afford to miss. - Adnan Khan

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