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There is a moment at the end of Silence of the Lambs when it becomes clear that Anthony Hopkins' character, the serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, has escaped. Rather than striking a terrifying note, the scene is supposed to provoke a bit of wry admiration for Lecter's genius. Buffalo Bill alone, the homely, uncouth yin to Lecter's yang, warrants the audience's wrath. As for Lecter, we are glad he gets away. He is, after all, so good at what he does.
Mr. Brooks (rated R for extreme violence, graphic sexual content, nudity, and language) embraces the same spirit. As played by Kevin Costner, Brooks is a handsome, meticulous, and quite likable murderer, especially when compared to the sloppy, incontinent protégé (Dane Cook) he unwillingly takes on.
When this overly stylized thriller finally comes to an end, even the cop chasing Brooks (Demi Moore) can't help smiling when she realizes he has slipped through her fingers yet again. The audience smiles right along with her. And why not? By then, they've witnessed so much blood spatter mixed with explicit sexuality that the final brutal act barely warrants a flinch.
Underscored by a pulsing soundtrack and an artful, grainy quality, Brooks' sadism looks cool. And in cinema today, that is the most important quality we want from our heroes-not honor or integrity, but coolness.
However hellish Brooks' acts might be, we admire how coolly he executes them. So rather than wish jail or worse on Mr. Brooks, the audience joins him in reveling in how neatly he disposes of his victims. Hollywood is, after all, so good at what it does.