I rented this from netflix... i thought it was a really good movie... lets see what the critics think...

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Mindhunters (2005)
movie review by Jeffrey Westhoff, Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)

Rating: ROTTEN (1/4)

If Mindhunters weren't so repellant, Kathryn Morris' performance might have been her career breakthrough.
Renny Harlin's "Mindhunters" is the latest offering from the Bob and Harvey Fire Sale.

While Bob and Harvey Weinstein ran Miramax, they were infamous for purchasing films at festivals just to make sure no other distributor bought them. Dozens of films, most reputed to be awful, sat on the shelf for years awaiting release.

Now that the Weinsteins are gone, the caretakers of Miramax and its "genre" arm, Dimension, are emptying the warehouse of Bob and Harvey's rejects. More will follow "Mindhunters" into theaters, but few will be as horrendous.

"Mindhunters" is a high-tech, high-blecch spin on Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None," also known as "Ten Little Indians."

Because the story gets remade every 20 years or so, another version was due. The setting changes with each update – from spooky island to alpine chalet to safari lodge – but the plot remains unchanged: A storm strands 10 people in a remote location, where an unseen murderer kills them one by one.

It is not surprising the latest overhaul would employ the violence and gore of slasher films. Christie would be appalled, but throw in a bunch of pot-smoking, sex-starved teenagers and a hockey mask, and her plot isn't unlike "Friday the 13th."

In this version the number of unlucky travelers has been reduced to eight, most of them trainees in the FBI's profiler program. Their instructor, the twisted Jake Harris (Val Kilmer), outlines their final exam. They will be dropped on an island off the Carolina coast where they will have 48 hours to stop a serial killer called the Puppet Master from claiming his next victim.

Just before the FBI helicopter takes off, a new student, Philadelphia police Detective Gabe Jensen (James Todd Smith, formerly LL Cool J), joins the seven trainees. He picked a hell of a time to audit the course.

With Christian Slater's J.D. Reston as their charismatic leader, the trainees assume they are alone on the island, an urban-combat training camp on loan from the Navy SEALs. They assume the Puppet Master and his victims are imaginary. But then, one by one, the trainees die increasingly gruesome deaths. At some point a hurricane roars in to cut them off from the mainland.

Harlin previously directed the similar, but much more entertaining "Deep Blue Sea." One of the intended jolts in "Mindhunters" might have been surprising if Harlin hadn't already deployed the same trick in his shark movie.

The intensity of the violence would have been shocking, too, had "Mindhunters" been released when Harlin finished it more than two years ago. One victim dissolves from the inside out; another gets turned into a human Popsicle from a blast of nitrous oxide and shatters in anatomically correct detail.

Many of the deaths involve dismemberment, which will give anyone familiar with Christie's story a good idea who didn't do it. Still, Harlin and writer Wayne Kramer mess with the plot enough to botch the ending.

Kilmer and Slater are wasted, while Johny Lee Miller ("Trainspotting") overacts as usual. Smith is solid, though, and if "Mindhunters" weren't so repellant then Kathryn Morris' performance might have been her career breakthrough. Because of her prominence in the opening scenes you know she lives at least until the final reel. Morris' acting makes us hope her character survives even longer.

She will have to wait for another chance at fame, though. "Mindhunters" is a terrible thing to waste a winning performance on.

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Caliente
'Mindhunters' mindlessly entertaining
By Phil Villarreal
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 05.12.2005
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If you see only one movie this year, definitely don't see "Mindhunters." Heck, if you see 20 movies this year, don't see "Mindhunters."
But if you go to the theater about every week in search of an action fix, if you're down for a fast-moving mystery, some gruesome deaths and a story just dumb enough to make you smile, "Mindhunters" is your film. At least for this week.
If that's not a rip-roaring rave endorsement for this twisting tale of FBI agents who are murdered one by one during what was supposed to be a training session on a secret island, well, that's because "Mindhunters" isn't the kind of personal-enrichment movie you name-drop in an intellectual conversation. It's cheap, dirty fun that doesn't stay to cuddle.
Even the film's handlers seem to feel the same way about their Agatha Christie-esque tale, in which agents suspect one another.
"Mindhunters" finished filming nearly three years ago, and was originally slated to open in April 2003. Then the release was pushed back, back, going, going . . . and almost direct-to-video, only to finally be released theatrically a week before the new "Star Wars" episode as a lamb to the slaughter. Those in control knew they had something good, but not that good.
This is a B-grade adventure through and through, but once you lower your standards enough to give it your attention, you're hooked. That last sentence can very well describe each and every film in director Renny Harlin's repertoire, which includes "Cliffhanger," "Die Hard 2" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight."
The agents are a smattering of tough guys and gals you'd find at the bottom of Movie Cliché Cracker Jack boxes. There's brash leader J.D. (Christian Slater), reserved-chick-with-a-secret Sara (Kathryn Morris) and gloomy outsider Gabe (LL Cool J). There are others, all under the guidance of cocky instructor Jake (Val Kilmer), but they exist only to be killed by the maniac or emerge as potential suspects to throw us off the track.
The movie's murders are its most creative assets. We're talking torso-shattering freeze gas, boat bomb tripwires, exploding gun handles and even a deadly domino set. The killer, who seems to take after the Superman nemesis Toyman, takes pleasure in dangling corpses as marionettes. He keeps to a strict schedule, making one kill every hour, on the hour.
Nearly every killing is followed by a scene of heavy tension and heavier cheese in which the remaining characters point their guns at one another, tossing out accusations based on red herrings meant to make us think someone or the other is the bad guy, only to absolve the suspect and accuse him later.
But back to the guns. The opening act makes it very clear that no guns are allowed on the island, but then one character says he has a gun, then another says he found a gun, and within 10 minutes, everyone has guns.
No explanation is offered as to the origin of the firearms. We just have to assume that FBI agents and guns attract one another like magnets - even where no guns are allowed. While lacking logic, it does make dramatic sense. Without guns, there can be no third-act gunfights.
Gotta love it. Don't gotta admit it to anyone.

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The latest horror-tinged thriller from Renny "Exorcist: The Beginning" Harlin, opening Friday, May 13


[Foreword: I screened this on January 14, 2004, prior to there being a firm release date; also prior to my having seen Exorcist: The Beginning]





Hello, my name is Staci and I am a Renny Harlin fan. It all started in the 80s, naturally. Back then, we thought the party would never end. I saw Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and I was hooked. This led me to Die Hard 2, and then the harder stuff, like Cutthroat Island. I saw The Long Kiss Goodnight and by god, I liked it. Yes, liked it. In 1999 Deep Blue Sea put me on the high seas. But then in 2001 I hit bottom with Driven. I saw that back to back with a rerun of Cliffhanger, and I thought that was it. I was cured of Harlin fandom. A couple of Renny-free years went by. Then just when I thought I was out, he pulled me back in with Mindhunters.



Mindhunters is a horror thriller which focuses on a team of would-be FBI profilers during a training exercise on a deserted island. Soon enough, things go terribly wrong and like Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians the Fibbys start to die one by one, leaving those still living suspicious of each other and beyond paranoid.



The story is lurid fun, not to be taken seriously. While watching Mindhunters you will either resist all the way and discount every incongruity, or you will sit back, relax and enjoy the white knuckle ride. Despite the jarringly bad prosthetics and ultra fake-looking corpses, I was still able to be in that second camp and let myself go with the mind tryst.



This latest Harlin flick is a gore-filled, thrill-filled, ratchet tight roller coaster ride with an interesting assortment of characters and actors: Val Kilmer plays the big cheese, the teacher of the course and the creator of the exercise which lands the hapless group on the island, trying to find a fictional serial killer called The Puppeteer. Christian Slater is the fearless leader of the FBI students, and Kathryn Morris (of TV's Cold Case series) plays his head-to-head match. Jonny Lee Miller is a surly know-it-all, and L.L. Cool J is a wild card. Patricia Velasquez (The Mummy Returns), Will Kemp (Van Helsing), and Clifton Collins, Jr. (The Hillside Strangler) round out the cast.



It's true your mind won't have to do much hunting in Mindhunters -- this is more like foraging in the grocery store -- but the tried and true "everyone is a potential killer" premise is fun, and the scripts offers up some cringe-inducing, memorable death scenes. Mindhunters is a good way to, er, kill a couple of hours.





Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson

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FBI profilers have a job that is not for the faint-hearted: get into the mind of a
killer. It is all about trying to understand his motives, trying to anticipate his next
step in order to stop him. Looking at it this way, it seems almost that the ones
most suitable for the job would be the twisted killers themselves. Now there is a
movie to prove it, and it is called ‘Mindhunters’.

We meet a group of FBI recruits who should become tomorrow’s FBI profilers or
‘mindhunters’. They have almost finished their training; in fact, when the movie
opens we are part of the one-but-last training of two recruits: J.D. (Christian
Slater) and Sara (Kathryn Morris) which ends in something of a disaster. Their
boss Harris (Val Kilmer), who has some sort of complex of superiority because
of his years of experience, is furious. How could they be this unfocused near
the end of their training?

There is one last simulation-training left in which J.D. and Sara could prove
themselves, together with the others in their group. They will be dropped on a
deserted island off the East coast, normally used for Marine-exercises. There is
one main building on the island, where they will be lodged, and a fake town full
of mannequins where there will be a murder set-up for them to unravel. Sounds
fair, does it not? When they go out in the morning to investigate, one of them is
really killed, soon after they have located the fake murder in the ghost-town. To
make things worse, the murder took place at exactly the hour indicated by a
watch they found in the morning, stuck inside a dead cat. And there is second
watch waiting for them at the scene of the crime.

As you can imagine, this is a modernised update of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little
Indians, where one by one, they FBI recruits will meet their end. This has been
done in movies a million times already, but this genre keeps attracting people,
think last year’s Identity, and thus new films around the same theme will
continue to be made. What is really interesting to know for the audience is not
really what the plot is about (‘people on a deserted island get killed off one by
one’ should suffice) but if it is worth to check out this new version. I would argue
that, if you are a fan of the genre, you will like it.

Director Renny Harlin, who is famous for popcorn-flicks such as Die Hard 2 and
Cliffhanger, knows he is not reinventing the wheel, and thus what is needed is a
deft direction, a very cured production design (sometimes edging on camp) and
atmospheric cinematography, all of which are slickly in place. The script is not
bad –given that it has been done so many times before, and the idea of a
group of professional analysers of killers analysing each other for a possible
murderer among them is an interesting new angle. That said, there are no real
heroes or charachters we identify with, something which made the Norwegian
thriller ‘Villmark’ stand out above many others.
'Mindhunters' will be liked by fans of the genre, and, as required, it will have
them at the edges of their seats, guessing until the end as to the explanation of
all these murders, occasionally jumping because of a music-cue, visually gory
moment or situation of excruciating suspense. Renny Harlin knowns what
buttons to push, and even though he does not do it with much originality, he
does it with flair.

Words: Boyd van Hoeij
Publication: July 2004]

Director: Renny Harlin
Screenwriters: Wayne Kramer,
Kevin Brodbin
Principal Actors: Val Kilmer (Jake
Harris), LL Cool J (Gabe Jensen),
Johnny Lee Miller (Lucas Harper),
Kathryn Morris (Sara Moore)
Country: USA / UK / Netherlands
Language: English

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Full of Unusual Suspects
by Betty Jo Tucker

The spirit of Agatha Christie hovers over Mindhunters, a suspenseful mystery with plenty of suspects to keep viewers guessing about the identity of a serial killer. As in Christie’s classic And Then There Were None, a group of people have been called together and targeted for murder -- but this time instead of guests at a British dinner party, the victims are wannabe FBI profilers who think they’re participating in a simulated training experience on an isolated island.

Each member of this group boasts a particular specialty, which should come in handy in solving the “simulated crime,” but everyone also has an individual weakness, and the killer uses both in planning some very gruesome murder strategies. When it becomes clear that one member of the group must be the culprit, all of these frightened characters can’t help being suspicious of each other.

Who could be the real killer? Solving that mystery is the fun of watching movies like this. Thinking I’d figured everything out early on, imagine my surprise when my “prime suspect” bit the dust. Then I picked another one -- who also met a bloody fate -- and so on until there were only two people left. Even then, I fingered the wrong person as the guilty party. Guess that proves I’d make a lousy FBI profiler. Not to worry. Surprises in movies thrill me to the bone. I really hate it when I can predict what’s going to happen, especially in a mystery film.

Director Renny Harlin (Exorcist: The Beginning) moves Mindhunters along with periods of quiet reflection added to soften its generally heart-pounding pace, and the ensemble cast delivers above-average performances for him. Kathryn Morris, minus her TV Cold Case messy hairdo, projects an intriguing screen presence as a very intelligent woman who’s sometimes prone to panic. She’s the one who holds this movie together and makes it almost believable. British actor Jonny Lee Miller, who played the charmingly weird “Sick Boy” in Trainspotting, adopts a soothing Southern drawl -- a nice change for him. Portraying an authoritative member of the team, Christian Slater redeems himself a bit for his lackluster work in Alone in the Dark. LL Cool J (S.W.A.T.) looks amazing and simply oozes Attitude in the role of an “observer” called in to evaluate the unusual training experience as well as the man who set it up, played ably by Val Kilmer (Wonderland). Eion Bailey (Almost Famous), Clifton Collins Jr. (The Last Castle) and Will Kemp (Van Helsing) offer strong support as the remaining suspects and/or victims.

If you love mysteries, Mindhunters should work for you. It presents a suspenseful puzzle wrapped in an entertaining package, and even if you're not able to solve the mystery and identify the killer, you'll probably enjoy the challenge.

DVD bonus items include: feature commentary by director Renny Harlin; Profiling Mindhunters, a behind-the-scenes featurette; a stunt sequence featurette; and a director’s tour through the location of the film’s main island setting. Although short and rather disappointing, these bonus features prove the importance of cinematography to the final high quality of this production.



(Released by Dimension Home Video and rated “R” for violence/strong graphic images, language and sexual content. Bonus materials are unrated.)

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When a film features as many laugh-out-loud moments as "Mindhunters," you expect it to be a comedy, not the suspense-thriller that this one pretends to be.

Obviously, most of those laughs are unintentional, as this film is played pretty straight-faced and is obviously trying to elicit thrills and chills. But it's just so ludicrous, so completely unbelievable, that you can't help but snicker — if not outright howl.

The film has been delayed for quite some time now, having sat on the distributors' shelf for nearly three years. Why the studio chose to release it now, when it's sure to get lost in the summer rush, is anyone's guess.

Presumably, the title refers to seven would-be FBI profilers (Eion Bailey, Clifton Collins Jr., Will Kemp, Jonny Lee Miller, Kathryn Morris, Christian Slater and Patricia Velazquez).

Their mentor, Jake Harris (Val Kilmer), hasn't been impressed by their efforts so far, so he sends them to a remote island for a supposedly routine training exercise. But they find they've been targeted by a killer who starts knocking them off one by one — and in particularly gruesome fashion. At first, they're thinking it's something cooked up by Jake, but as the bodies start to pile up, suspicion falls on Gabe Jensen (LL Cool J), a detective who's there to observe their progress.

Director Renny Harlin and screenwriter Wayne Kramer seem to delight in killing off these one-note characters, using devices that would make Rube Goldberg proud — or frightened. (There wasn't this much planning done by Kevin Spacey's serial killer character in "Se7en.")

Would that as much effort went into the performances. Morris (TV's "Cold Case") barely registers, though she's supposedly the lead character, and when characters are killed off, the actors look relieved.

"Mindhunters" is rated R for strong scenes of violence (including some shootings, violence against women, a decapitation and some explosive mayhem), some fairly graphic gore, occasional use of strong sexual profanity, some drug content (use of tranquilizers as well as hypodermic needles), a brief sex scene, and some brief male nudity. Running time: 105 minutes.



E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com

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'Mindhunters' a lame FBI thriller
By JIM SLOTEK - Toronto Sun
'Mindhunters' skilful, puzzling



PLOT: A group of young trainee FBI serial-killer "profilers" are marooned on an island as a training exercise, and find they themselves are being profiled and stalked by a killer.

Some immigrants learn the language from watching TV. I'm convinced that Finnish-born Hollywood schlockmeister Renny Harlin did it by absorbing movie cliches. His first two words in English may have been "red herring."

Exhibit A for this theory is Mindhunters, an ankle-deep lost-opportunity of a thriller in which characters are not so much people as plot devices. It is, in fact, merely a slasher film with clueless young, pretty FBI agents instead of clueless, pretty teens, bickering as they get picked off one by one.

How do you keep this limiting dynamic going for the hour and a half-plus apparently required by law? Simple. You switch the focus of suspicion every few minutes, only to reveal that your latest suspect himself has been killed. If this sounds funny, it often is. What worked a long time ago in Ten Little Indians is pure comedy gold in the hands of hacks.

Mindhunters, which has been "on the shelf" for a while, opens with young serial-killer profilers-in-training getting raked over the coals by their tough, eccentric instructor Harris (Val Kilmer). It should be noted that the marquee names in the movie, Kilmer and Christian Slater (who plays the leader of the FBI kids), are there for about 10 minutes each -- not a good sign.

The gang includes an easily frightened blonde (in slasher films she'd be Jamie Lee Curtis or Heather Langenkamp) named Sara (Kathryn Morris), a Texan (Jonny Lee Miller), a Brit (Will Kemp), a tough guy in a wheelchair (Clifton Collins), a wiseacre (Eion Bailey) and a fiery Latina (Patricia Velazquez).


With their evaluations on the line, the gang is sent to a mysterious island the FBI shares with the Navy, there to go through their paces in realistic serial-killer setups (and joined by a mysterious police detective, played by LL Cool J).

Within minutes of their first "drill," one of their number is killed in a complicated Rube Goldberg fashion. Our little law-enforcement Breakfast Club is thus forced to "profile" their stalker to save themselves.

The problem is, there's very little brain on display. For the most part, they holler and point guns at each other as suspicion shifts from person to person on a whim. If these are the FBI's best brains, no wonder so many crimes go unsolved.

In the end, good old-fashioned guns and punchups are the crime-stoppers of choice. And, of course, no ostensible bad guy goes down without getting up again.

A few murders on Boobytrap Island are imaginative, including one with a tank of liquified gas that leaves the victim "breakable," and another that truly underlines the dangers of smoking.

But in the end, idiocy conquers all. Don't even try to figure out how the real killer could have pulled off the byzantine deathtraps in the movie. If the filmmakers won't waste the brainpower, why should you?

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Mindhunters
Movie Review
"Mindhunters"
Review by Eric D. Snider
Grade: C
Rating: R
Released: Friday, May 13, 2005

As far as preposterous, imbecilic thrillers go, "Mindhunters" is a fun one. I didn't believe a minute of it, and all my laughter was at its expense (the film itself is deadly serious), but I was never bored by it, either. It's in the category of movies, like "Cellular" and "Timeline," that I can't really recommend, but that I wouldn't exactly discourage anyone from seeing, either.

It's about a group of FBI profilers-in-training who are whisked away by their unconventional, borderline psychopath trainer (Val Kilmer) to a Navy-owned island for a weekend of final tests and drills. The main event is that a crime will be simulated, with appropriate clues left behind, that they will have to solve. But wouldn't you know it, while investigating the manufactured crime scene, a real crime occurs, insofar as one of the trainees is killed by an elaborate booby trap.

Well, what better for a final exam, you know? The survivors are in panic mode now, looking for a way off the island (there isn't one) or a means of communicating with the mainland (forget it). And, as always happens when a small band of characters is trapped in an isolated location, they begin to die one by one, the killer apparently being among them. It's Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" -- or the 1985 film "Clue," if you prefer -- by way of "Seven" (because, you see, these FBI profilers are being profiled by the murderer and dispatched according to their individual strengths and weaknesses).

In the beginning, the potential suspects and victims are led by Sara (Kathryn Morris), an unsure woman with a tendency to freeze up under stress who is still processing a previous trauma. Her FBI partner is J.D. (Christian Slater), whose sexual partner is Nicole (Patricia Velasquez), a tough-as-nails cigarette smoker who, if it weren't for the sex with J.D., would be a lesbian.

Sara's buddy (platonic, so far) is Lucas (Jonny Lee Miller), a Southern boy with an obvious crush on her. There's also Rafe (Will Kemp), an Irish national (what's HE doing in the FBI?); Bobby (Eion Bailey), a non-descript handsome American; and Vince (Clifton Collins Jr.), who is confined to a wheelchair since being shot some time ago and who now goes nowhere without his gun. They're all joined at the last minute by Gabe Jensen (LL Cool J), a Philadelphia detective who's along to observe their tactics, ostensibly, though there is more to it than that.

The one smart move in the screenplay (by Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin) is to have the murders occur via booby trap rather than overt act. When someone is, say, stabbed to death, you can figure out who did it by determining where everyone was at the time of the stabbing. But when it's a complicated, set-in-advance trap, it doesn't matter where the killer is. He or she could be having dinner with five witnesses at the time of the murder and still be the murderer.

That said, these booby traps rely on A LOT of foreknowledge and luck. Somehow the killer seems to know exactly who will respond to each crisis, and how they will respond, and thus moves everyone around like chess pieces in a most outrageous, comical fashion. It doesn't matter if your strategy is to barricade yourself in your room and wait for rescue from the mainland. The killer KNEW you would do that, and a deadly cobra has already been stashed in your bed sheets. SO THERE!

Renny Harlin, of so many vigorously foolish movies I need hardly name them (OK, "Exorcist: The Beginning," "Deep Blue Sea" and "Cutthroat Island"), directed this thing, which was finished almost three years ago and has been scheduled and rescheduled for release several times since then. That doesn't speak well of its quality, but in truth it's no worse than a lot of movies that receive full support from their studios and are given prominent release dates. It has the requisite number of false leads, twists and surprises, including two or three that make no sense whatsoever. One of them even relies on the old standby of a character being able to hold his or her breath underwater for well over two minutes -- a classic indeed.

Grade: C

Rated R, a lot of F-words, some sexuality, a bit of nudity, plenty of violence

1 hr., 46 min.

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Mindhunters (2005)
1½ Stars

Directed by Renny Harlin
Cast: Kathryn Morris, LL Cool J, Jonny Lee Miller, Christian Slater, Patricia Velasquez, Eion Bailey, Will Kemp, Clifton Collins Jr., Val Kilmer, Cassandra Bell
2005 – 106 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence/strong graphic images, language and sexual content).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, May 14, 2005.

"Mindhunters," directed by the on-and-off Renny Harlin (2004's "Exorcist: The Beginning"), might have been filmed nearly three years ago (it has been sitting on the shelf collecting dust as a series of potential release dates have passed it by), but it still has the unfortunate task of opening one week after the eerily reminiscent "House of Wax." Both feature a group of characters in desolate surroundings being picked off one at a time by a savvy psycho character. Whereas the town in "House of Wax" was populated entirely by wax figures, this one has mannequins galore and enough cats to make one think he or she is watching a sequel to 1992's "Sleepwalkers."

The difference in quality between the two pictures is just as glaring. As a movie placed firmly within the realm of the slasher genre, "House of Wax" elicited a serious amount of excitement, gleeful violence, and goosebumps. It not only got the heart rate going, but made marvelously inventive use out of its setting. "Mindhunters," meanwhile, harkens back to the whodunits of Agatha Christie and also 1986's underappreciated "April Fool's Day," but is markedly less ingenious. While wasting its premise and most of its fairly impressive moody production design by Charles Wood (2003's "The Italian Job"), it manages to come off as a dull and weirdly aloof waste of time. There is no necessary tension in "Mindhunters," no memorable characters, and no sense of fun. Instead, Renny Harlin just lines up his cast and knocks off their boring asses one at a time.

The setup for this eventual killing spree comes when a ragtag group of FBI crime profilers in training, including the determined Sara (Kathryn Morris), smooth-talking leader J.D. (Christian Slater), wheelchair-bound Vince (Clifton Collins Jr.), and sexy Nicole (Patricia Velasquez), are dropped off at a deserted island off the coast of North Carolina's Outer Banks. They are to spend the weekend participating in a simulated crime case where the fake culprit is a serial killer known only as The Puppeteer. This practice test quickly turns serious when they starting dropping off themselves, the victims of a real-like killer who may be among them. With no way off the island—their boat naturally explodes—the weekend turns into a fight for survival.

When "Mindhunters" is predictable, it is very, very predictable (the opening sequence twist, while being one of the more visually interesting set-pieces, is insultingly obvious, and the red herrings once the group gets to the island are sloppy, at best). When the dastardly villain is finally revealed at the end, it comes with an audience shrug, coupled with an eye-roll and a snicker when he or she conveniently rattles off their flimsy plan and motive to the remaining survivor(s). This is one dusty cliche of the mystery-horror genre that should have died with the "Scream" trilogy—no other movies have been able to do it nearly as well ever since—and now it only feels convoluted and strained.

What is stuffed in between these opening and closing sections of "Mindhunters" is a thriller so drearily plotted and filmed that it may suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The typical boo scares are just that—typical—and the death scenes, while not just your garden variety stabbings and choppings, have been gutted and drained of all possible suspense. When they occur, not only does the viewer not care about the ill-fated characters, but they are so uninterestingly gory (no small feat) many audiences may just find their attention drifting to a grocery list or an upcoming social obligation.

The characters are unequivocally dull and the acting is no better save for the reliably self-deprecating Christian Slater (2005's "Alone in the Dark"). As offbeat program mentor Jake Harris, at least Val Kilmer (2004's "Alexander") has the good sense to make a quick appearance, get his easy money, and then disappear for almost the whole rest of the film. The dialogue clangs, tending to overexplain every plot element to the point of nausea. And if that weren't enough of the bad tidings, even the music score is inappropriate, overly goofy or overwrought when it should be more classically atmospheric, and thoroughly forgettable the rest of the time.

As a horror picture out to scare the viewer, "Mindhunters" fails, featuring only one moment of twisted inspiration (it involves a corpse being used as a puppet). The rest is just preposterously plotted and filled with unconvincing character motivations that fulfill the requirements of the thriller conventions without actually seeming like things the people on display actually would do. Is "Mindhunters" so bad that it deserved the incessant release date delays, courtesy of the now-threadbare Dimension Films? No. Is it a film that wouldn't have been missed even if it had remained on the shelf for years to come? Yes.

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Mindhunters Print E-mail
Contributed by Brent Simon
Friday, 13 May 2005

Hey, maybe Paul Schrader can return the favor of his dumped Exorcist prequel and re-shoot director Renny Harlin?s Mindhunters. After all, it?s an atrocious mess that could hardly stand to be dis-improved upon.

Scripted by Wayne Kramer (writer-director of The Cooler) and Kevin Brodbin from a story by the former, Mindhunters tells the story of seven FBI profilers brought together by loose cannon trainer Jake Harris (Val Kilmer, chewing scenery). Dropped off for an exercise on a remote island (naturally), the group ? consisting of Gabe Jensen (LL Cool J), Sara Moore (a thoroughly unconvincing Kathryn Morris, of television?s Cold Case), J.D. Reston (a bored Christian Slater), Bobby Whitman (Eion Bailey), wheelchair-bound Vince Sherman (Clifton Collins, Jr.), Lucas Harper (Jonny Lee Miller) and Nicole Willis (Patricia Velasquez) ? starts working a contrived case only to discover when one of them dies that there is a serial killer in their midst, a cunning murderer intent on slaying each and every last one of them. Paranoia quickly and naturally reaches epidemic-level proportions, and complicating matters further is the fact that the killer is additionally calling his or her shots by predicting the exact time of each murder.

The movie?s premise, though farfetched, is actually a pretty good if disposable one in my book, a sort of 21st century forensic re-imagination of Agatha Christie?s And Then There Were None. There are a few early scenes of palpable tension, and Harlin, too, is usually a good match for this sort of pop trash (witness Deep Blue Sea). While the movie?s murky visual palette is unappealing, Harlin delivers a few imaginative and gory death scenes that will elicit squeals of appreciative unease. But he overdoes tenfold the clamorous sound effects and shock-jump editing, to the point that it grates more than frightens.

The chief problem is that none of the filmmakers responsible for Mindhunters seem to have a good bead on where it?s going. It piles on twists just for the sake of twists, and its wretched and mind-numbingly silly third act finds characters? modes of behavior and reaction changing merely in an effort to swing audience opinion about who the perpetrator(s) of the acts are. The feints grow tiresome, and the more that the movie is required to explain (or at least pretend to explain), the stupider and more irritating it becomes.

With this and January?s Alone in the Dark, Slater has firmly established himself as the man to beat for Worst Actor 2005 Razzie honors, which is a shame because I still think somewhere underneath that disinterested smirk exists the capacity for interesting work. It?s just that in Mindhunters, there?s simply nothing going on but the rent. D (Miramax, R, 106 mins.)

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Mindhunters (2005)
movie review by Brian Orndorf, FilmJerk.com

Rating: FRESH (B)

Mindhunters pulses with style and confidence, even when it doesn’t have a clue how to figure itself out.
A group of potential psychological profilers (including Eion Bailey, Clifton Collins Jr., Jonny Lee Miller, Christian Slater, Patricia Velasquez, and Kathryn Morris from TV’s “Cold Case”) have entered their final stage of training. Under the guidance of their teacher (Val Kilmer) and the supervision of a government official (LL Cool J), the team is sent to a temporarily abandoned military island for a weekend of sleuthing and testing. Once on the island, it soon becomes clear another person has joined them, and has the desire to kill them all off, one by one. Using their gifts for deduction, the squad must figure out who is trying to murder them, while the killer employs their paranoia and a gift for elaborate death traps to thin the herd.

“Mindhunters” is a cheesy pop thriller, lacking in general logic and character insight, but I expect nothing more from director Renny Harlin. Returning to his grisly semi-horror roots that he founded in his early films “Prison” and “Nightmare on Elm Street 4,” Harlin might not be the classiest filmmaker around, but he knows how deliver on thrills and chills (“The Long Kiss Goodnight,” “Die Hard 2”). “Mindhunters” plays to Harlin’s strengths in that it doesn’t add up to much and it features very little in the genuine surprise department, but it pulses with style and confidence, even when it doesn’t have a clue how to figure itself out.

Hopping on the “CSI” bandwagon, the script by Wayne Kramer and Kevin Broadbin doesn’t offer much new to the pool of forensic investigation, but they do use their R-rating to offer a much more gruesome account of how these professionals go about their business. However, don’t expect a “CSI” level of factual representation. Harlin’s only in this for the scares and complex murder set pieces. These sequences are the centerpiece of “Mindhunters,” with the filmmakers taking great care to keep the shock value high (ouch, Mr. Slater!) and the suspense percolating. Through misdirection, questionable star billing, and a couple scenes of shameless fraud, Harlin manages to hide the identity of the killer fairly well, but the goal of the film isn’t a whodunit, but howtheykeepdoingit.

The picture’s long, drawn out climax says a lot more about Harlin’s insistence on the preservation of the film’s mystery than anything in the rest of the film, and it slows down the movie’s energy to a crawl. The ensemble cast treats the Agatha Christie-lite material with a straight face (including a strong performance from newly minted star Morris), which always helps digest the picture‘s undesirable traits, with only Harlin bungling their motivations in the final moments in an effort to draw out the suspense like wet noodle being stretched by two bulldozers.

“Mindhunters” is popcorn filmmaking, and would be a lot more effective if the plot and characters hadn’t been exploited on the major television networks every week. But beneath the familiar aftertaste is a hard working thriller that, if it can’t blow your mind, it could very well entertain the hell out of it.

My Rating: B

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By John J. Puccio (September 14, 2005)

I've said it before: Never trust a picture whose title the studio can't spell.

The name of this 2004 theatrical release is "Mindhunters," one word. But the packaging clearly spells it on the front of the keep case, the spine, and the chapter insert as "Mind Hunters," two words. You wonder if maybe somebody doing the promotion for the film should have actually watched the thing?

In any case, it's no wonder this movie did poorly at the box office, despite its high-profile cast--Val Kilmer, Christian Slater, LL Cool J--and its veteran action director, Renny Harlin ("Nightmare on Elm Street 4," "Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger," "Cutthroat Island," "Deep Blue Sea," "Driven," "Exorcist: The Beginning"). With the exception of a little more sex and violence, courtesy of an R rating, there is really little in the story that a person couldn't see almost any night of the week on TV. Think "CSI: Miami" meets PBS's "Mystery," with a lot of "Friday the 13th" and Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" ("Ten Little Indians") thrown in for good measure. In other words, the movie borrows from ever

...for all its pseudo logic, Mindhunters is just as implausible as any Halloween sequel.

yone.

So, here's the situation: Val Kilmer plays a tough, hard-nosed FBI instructor, Jake Harris, who teaches a class of seven potential FBI psychological profilers. For their final exam, Harris deposits his team on an isolated island, where they are to spend a weekend tracking down a mock serial killer called "the Puppeteer" in a mock-up city called "Crimetown." In addition to the regular class members, an observer also comes along for the experience. Once Harris leaves the island, the team will have no contact with the outside world: no phones, no Internet, no transportation off. Their job is to cooperate among themselves, to work as a team, to pick up clues, and to discover the mystery Harris has set up for them.

And then the real murders start, and they are all of them most grisly. One by one, the cast diminishes. They search the island thoroughly and find no one else there. They begin to think that maybe one of them is killing the others or that Harris has gone mad is killing them off himself.

The idea is that these FBI students are supposed to be learning to profile killers; but the tables are reversed, and the killer is profiling each of them according to their psychological profiles. That's the most clever twist in a story that is otherwise quite mundane.

The opening sequence contains any number of red herrings and phony surprises that set the tone for the rest of the film. Harris tells his students that their most lethal weapon is not their firearm but their brain. Still, it was the opening gambit that was the only part of the movie I enjoyed.

Eion Bailey, Clifton Collins Jr., Will Kemp, Jonny Lee Miller, Kathryn Moore, Christian Slater, and Patricia Velasquez play the class members. LL Cool J (also using his real name, James Todd Smith, in the credits, possibly to reinforce the idea that he is taking acting seriously) plays the observer. However, it's with the team members that the movie's trouble starts. In order for a thriller of this kind to generate any suspense at all, we have to care about the characters; we have to worry about their survival. In this case, as in so many slasher movies, we're never introduced to the characters well enough or given enough background on them for us to be at all interested in them. They are simply interchangeable faces. The one thing they have in common is that they are all attractive and bright, yet that's not enough to involve us in their safety. As in most slasher films, the only element we do care about is the order of their deaths. Even who is committing the dastardly deeds is a secondary concern.

After a lot of psychobabble, the movie finally gets underway with the fir

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st murder about a half an hour in. Once the action starts, director Harlin knows how to keep it going, which is to his credit. Unfortunately, merely keeping up a good pace in a story that is going nowhere is not enough.

The killer is smug and leaves warnings in advance: the future time of each of his murders. We get a lot of close-ups of the characters' faces as they look from one to another. In appropriate drawing-room fashion, they all look suspicious. Take your pick which one or none might be the killer; it doesn't matter. There are no heroes here, and no one is too obviously a villain. Why should we care?

Since the killer is so arbitrary--it could be anyone or no one--I was hoping that when the killer was finally revealed, he would say, "And now for something completely different," and John Cleese would step out of the shadows with a machete in his hand. Alas, it doesn't happen, but anything would have helped.

Does the group stay together out in the open at each appointed hour? Of course not. That would be too easy. Most of the time they go off in separate directions, in time-honored Hollywood tradition.

The film's worst fault, though, is that it gets progressively more ridiculous, more far-fetched, more preposterous as it goes along. We can almost accept the premise, itself rather improbable, but after the murders start, we can see things going downhill fast. The killings are the kind that depend on precise timing, knowing exactly where everybody is going to be every moment, the killer one of those omniscient types who rigs up every trap so elaborately that in real life it would take days but this person does it presumably in minutes, and without anybody's knowing.

So, for all its pseudo logic, "Mindhunters" is just as implausible as any "Halloween" sequel. The characters are cardboard, the plot is trite, and the music is blaring. Harlin does what he can with a hackneyed script that goes nowhere.

By the time it was over, I had to ask, "Is that all there is?"

Video:
The DVD retains most of the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in a very wide transfer, enhanced for 16x9 televisions. A relatively high bit rate ensures that detail is fairly sharp, delineation crisp, and colors reasonably deep. It's a good-looking picture, actually, if just a touch glassy. Hues are limited to the director's often dark, metallic palette, but facial tones are mostly natural.

Audio:
While the Dolby Digital 5.1 processing is a tad on the bright side, it is quite clear, with an ample bass response. It is also effective in its manipulation of surround sound in elements like rain drops, noises in the night, and musical ambience enhancement. So, from an audiovisual standpoint the transfer excels.

Extras:
For me, the best part of the disc was Renny Harlin's commentary. It's pointed, polished, professional, informative, and highly enjoyable. I recommend that anyone interested in filmmaking listen to the director's comments, no matter if you think the film itself is worth your time. Among the extras you'll also find a seven-minute featurette, "Profiling Manhunters," a behind-the-scenes affair that is typical of what most studios do to promote their product. Then, there is a four-minute stunt sequence, explaining how the filmmakers created one of the fight scenes; and "A Director's Walk Through Crimetown," three minutes following Harlin around the main set.

Finally, there are twenty-four scene selections; a chapter insert; and, at start-up only, some brief sneak peeks at a number of other Dimension films. The disc includes English and French as spoken language options, with Spanish subtitles and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Parting Shots:
Val Kilmer, an actor I admire greatly, appeared in four films in 2004: one that was pretty good but nobody saw, "Spartan"; two that nobody saw for good reason, "Stateside" and "Mindhunters"; and one that wasn't worth seeing, "Alexander." He deserves a better agent.

"Mindhunters" is a well-made film by an action director who knows his business. It's just that there's not much here to work with. The movie plows no new ground, develops no new characters, presents no new thrills. It just plods along through familiar territory, offering gratuitous blood and gore in place of genuine excitement. I can't say I liked it much.

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Mindhunters (2005)
movie review by Mark Palermo, The Coast (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Rating: FRESH

Harlin treads a line between well-orchestrated suspense and death porn, even underlining his carnage with anti-smoking and anti-gun messages.
Mindhunters
Directed by Renny Harlin

The first thing one’s likely to notice about the long-delayed Mindhunters is that, even for an off-season Hollywood thriller, it’s extremely stupid. But it’s also something XXX: State of the Union, Sahara, Constantine and Saw are not: Fun. The director Renny Harlin is working the genre at a base level, but he pulls the audience response levers with gusto, and has a sense of humour that pokes fun at its own sadism. The story is Agatha Christie crossed with Final Destination. FBI profilers are sent to an island for training (sort of a reverse Alcatraz), where they learn that a killer is amongst them. Harlin treads a line between well-orchestrated suspense and death porn, even underlining his carnage with anti-smoking and anti-gun messages. The cast which features Kathryn Morris, Christian Slater, LL Cool J, Val Kilmer, Patricia Valesquez and Jonny Lee Miller is attuned to the dirtyminded sensibility. The crucial plot point of why a non-FBI character is with this team is addressed but not explained. And after House of Wax, this is the second movie in a week with a scene that looks inspired by the notorious moment in Irreversible where a man’s face is pulverized with a fire extinguisher. If the “Who Will Kick It Next?” attitude is heartless, Mindhunters beats Final Destination 2 by at least concerning itself with the prospect of survival. Harlin knows it’s better to make death nasty and intense than nasty and glib.

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if you havent seen this you probably should... its a really good movie in my opinion ill give it a 8... sooo many twists in the plot... just watch it!

wun