Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) is a pillar of the community in Portland, Oregon: An executive, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a family man. Still, he find time for his other interests: Hand-made pottery ... and murder. Mr. Brooks is also The Thumbprint Killer, known for creating crime scenes with the bodies of his victims in posed tableaus that have no evidence left behind. Mr. Brooks is careful -- and a bit regretful: He knows he shouldn't be killing, and discusses it at great length with Marshall (William Hurt), an imaginary friend who's not, in fact, very friendly -- and who simultaneously goads Mr. Brooks to action and cautions him against mistakes.
But Mr. Brooks does make a mistake one night, and is approached by the twitchy, conniving Mr. Smith (Dane Cook) soon after. Mr. Smith saw Mr. Brooks kill. He has proof. He knows. And all Smith wants from Brooks in exchange for his silence is to come along and kill with him ... even though one of Portland's top cops, Det. Atwood (Demi Moore) close in pursuit after his most recent efforts. And Mr. Brook's home life changes as his daughter Jane (Danielle Panabaker) comes back to the nest having dropped out of school with some secrets of her own: It's tough having it all.
Directed by Bruce A. Evans, Mr. Brooks, in many ways, tries to reclaim the serial killer thriller from the omnipotent, stylish clutches of Hannibal Lecter; Mr. Brooks is clever, and careful, but he makes mistakes; he knows he's crazy, and tries to do something about it. Mr. Brooks repeats the "Serenity Prayer" and goes to AA meetings, where he stands and admits that yes, he's an addict -- even as Marshall hisses in his ear that Earl's not really being honest about what he's addicted to. Costner's never been a terrific actor, but he's always been a presence -- from Silverado to The Guardian -- and Earl Brooks gives him a chance to play two halves of a whole -- the seething homicidal impulses and chill swift actions of a killer comingled with the warm charm of a responsible family man and business leader.