on May 13, 2005 by Michael Tunison
Take one of the most overdone movie genres of recent years (serial killer thriller), structure it as a "Ten Little Indians"-by-way-of-"Identity" whodunit, crank everything up with one of the most cranked-up action directors in Hollywood (Renny Harlin) and you've got "Mindhunters," a thoroughly silly exercise in cinematic excess that will nonetheless provide a certain breed of trash-movie lover with a few hoots.

The laughably gimmicky premise concerns a group of young FBI profilers-in-training sent to a supposedly uninhabited island as part of a test dreamed up by their instructor (Val Kilmer). The idea is that they'll spend the weekend following clues in a ghost town used for military war games, but the simulation turns deadly serious (for the characters, anyway) when a real killer begins voting the trainees off the island with a series of preposterously complicated, special effects-heavy murders. Has a psycho followed them from the mainland, or--as the profiler wannabes quickly begin to suspect--could one of their own actually be a closet serial killer?

Some of the ensuing twists are genuinely surprising, primarily due to the willingness of the audacious B-action maven Harlin ("Driven") to go so quickly and completely over the top with them. Indeed, Harlin's characteristically frenetic pacing and enthusiasm for the "Mousetrap"-like kill sequences might have punched this one into the dumb-but-fun category overall were it not for the painfully predictable finale--an energy depleter just as the film direly needs a big kick.

Cast members such as Christian Slater ("Windtalkers") and LL Cool J ("S.W.A.T.") struggle to convincingly portray mostly slow-on-the-uptake characters who leap to all sorts of dubious conclusions about what's happening and in general are impossible to accept as candidates for one of the most elite specialties in law enforcement. Of the whole forgettable bunch, only Kathryn Morris from TV's "Cold Case" does her career a favor with her sympathetic work as a key heroine. Starring Christian Slater, Val Kilmer, LL Cool J, Jonny Lee Miller, Kathryn Morris, Clifton Collins Jr., Will Kemp, Patricia Velasquez and Eion Bailey. Directed by Renny Harlin. Written by Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brobdin. Produced by Cary Brokaw, Akiva Goldsman, Robert F. Newmyer, Jeffrey Silver, Rebecca Spikings and Scott Strauss. A Dimension release. Action. Rated R for violence/strong graphic images, language and sexual content. Running time: 105 min

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