As part of an FBI training program, seven young wannabe profilers are sent to a remote island to hone their serial killer-tracking skills. The group’s assignment is to get into the mind of the “Puppeteer,” a fictitious sociopath who hangs his victims, ahem, like puppets. But when a trainee is killed on what was supposed to be a fake crime scene and clues foretell yet another victim’s death, things don’t look so simulated anymore. By the time the next agent is murdered—right on cue—the group has discovered that the Puppeteer is actually one of them (dum-dum-dum-dummm). As team members go down one-by-one in gruesome fashion, this island getaway becomes an every-man-for-himself race to find the real psychopath.
A profiler risks his life to save a wheelchair-bound agent, despite the man threatening to kill him. At times, various members of the group stick up for each other.
The camera lingers from a distance on an agent’s backside as he takes a shower. He’s joined by an equally disrobed female trainee, whose breast is briefly shown as the two kiss passionately. A pinup on the wall shows a topless woman. Two men kiss on the mouth. It’s mentioned that two team members are sleeping together. Several crude, sexual comments and jokes are made.
When it comes to finding the most violent, graphic ways for people to die, Mindhunters gets creative. A man sprayed with liquid nitrogen literally breaks apart. After the skin on his legs is graphically shown eroding, his limbs crumble and we see his torso fall to the ground, shattering various parts of his body. The movie seems to have a thing for decapitation, as it is the cause of death on a couple of occasions. The “frozen” man’s head cracks off. We see a victim’s headless body several times and hear the sound effects of another’s throat being slit. A woman unknowingly consumes acid that erodes her face. (We watch her mouth, cheeks, eyes and hands wear away.) Then, to top it all off, she drowns.
But wait, there’s more! The Puppeteer is known for hanging people alive in marionette fashion and letting the wires cut through their arms, legs, hands and faces. For extra support, he lodges meat hooks in his victim’s backs. We, of course, “get” to see this up-close and personal. Several iron stakes are driven through a man’s chest and, more graphically, his throat. A rigged gun explodes in the face of an agent offscreen; then we witness the gory aftermath, complete with holes in his already shredded face.
There’s shooting, punching, head-slamming, slapping, conking and other general injury-inducing behavior. A massive explosion sends everyone in the group sprawling. (A woman later picks shrapnel out of an agent’s open shoulder wound.)An agent takes a round of automatic fire to his chest. Another gets shot in his neck and forehead. A woman is slapped and later has her head slammed into a window. The same trainee gets pushed down a flight of stairs, is nearly drowned (twice) and stabbed, takes a whack to the face with a large metal container and again has her head slammed—this time on a table. Two men in a duel connect with hard punches. Another pair of guys shoot at each other from close range.
An agent describes himself as a non-violent person, though he refuses to go anywhere without a gun. He launches into a mini-diatribe on how everyone needs to find an outlet for their pent-up anger; his just happens to be firing arms. Later, he tells the story of another agent’s sister and makes a point to emphasize how she was repeatedly raped and then drowned.
Around two-dozen f-bombs get dropped, a handful of which are connected with “mother.” Around 10 s-words are used, while God’s name gets misused an equal number of times; almost always it’s in conjunction with “d–n.” Jesus’ name is abused twice. A dozen other mild profanities are spoken, including a couple mentions of “a–hole.”
An agent’s on-again, off-again smoking habit becomes key to her story. She and many others puff away throughout the movie. The camera lingers on a pack of cigarettes. A bar scene includes the group drinking beers and smoking. A man jokes about taking up drinking, smoking and womanizing when he was 10.
It appears as if two girls have been killed and their bodies left to deteriorate. The carcasses of several hanged animals are twice shown for extended times. On one of these occasions, a watch that has been lodged in the open belly of a cat is retrieved as the camera eagerly zooms in to capture spilling innards. Maggots crawl in the eyes and face of a mannequin.
An agent is twice referred to as having a gambling addiction.
You’re not supposed to laugh while watching a psycho-thriller/whodunit … but I just couldn’t help myself. Mindhunters is an unintentionally mindless disaster of a movie. What could’ve been a smart flick with an intriguing plot—a sociopath amidst a group trained to detect serial killers—winds up slaughtered by grade-school writing and often sloppy acting. Add in a CSI rip-off music montage (DNA analysis is so much cooler with techno beats, isn’t it?), plot “twists” that never add up, noticeable filming glitches and plenty of cardboard characters.
Maybe now you can get a sense of why I, along with most everyone else at the film’s screening, chuckled out loud more than once. Not that heinous murders, exaggerated violence, extreme language and the movie’s outright wallowing in gore are laughing matters. But there comes a point at which you can’t help but join Val Kilmer and Christian Slater in laughing at what must be something of an inside joke—that they actually get paid to appear (albeit briefly) in movies like this.
“Profilers are supposed to outsmart their foes,” writes Jeff Strickler for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “But the only brains in evidence are the ones oozing out of head wounds.” Mindhunters sat on the shelf for more than two years. It should’ve been a no-brainer to let it stay there.