Mindhunters is one of those cool, scrappy B movies like Pitch Black, Deep Blue Sea, or Breakdown. With a humble budget and humble aspirations, it cuts to the chase and is so focused on its task that it works wonderfully.
R for violence, graphic images, language, sexual content
A class of 8 young FBI profilers are about to graduate — at least for some of them are. Some of them, like J.D. (Christian Slater), keep blowing their training exercises. Their teacher, Harris (Val Kilmer), is unorthodox and might lose his job if his class can’t prove his methods work.
Their big final exam, so to speak, will take place on an island off the east coast of the U.S. It’s a navy installation used for rescue training, but occasionally Harris gets to bring a class for a weekend. The island contains a complete small town in simulation, with pop-up dummies and everything.
The job of these 8 Super Friends is to find the crime scene of “the puppetmaster,” and before the weekend is out, have a workable profile of their killer. They have a chemistry lab, computers, a fully stocked freezer, and full run of the facilities in the island’s command center.
They spot the crime scene, but their leader sets off a Rube Goldberg trap that results in his own death. Suddenly, the students are out of the simulation and fighting for their lives.
They imagine the killer must be one of them, because the rest of the island is deserted. But is it J.D.? Is it wheelchair-bound Vince (Clifton Collins Jr.)? Is it the southern gentleman Lucas (Johnny Lee Miller)? Is it Ms. Fear-of-Failure Sara (Kathryn Morris)? Or is it the man who came along for the ride at the last minute, a cop from the city of Philadelphia (LL Cool J, looking buffer than ever), sent to observe the proceedings?
Whoever it is, the killer is intent on picking off every agent, one by one. He or she leaves clues, as if to test these FBI agents-to-be (could it be Harris?), before killing the next victim with a fiendish trap. And although the students try to work together to solve the crime, their mutual mistrust keeps them from fully cooperating.
The movie works both a as a horror film — with a fairly high body count and several gruesome deaths — and as a whodunit. In that sense, it’s a little like the Scream movies, but without the self-conscious humor. It’s also got the snappy pace of an action movie, without any extraneous subplots or relationships.
None of this is to say that Mindhunters is actually a great film. It isn’t. In fact, talking with a friend afterwards, we came up with several ways it could have been better. The characters could have been much better defined and separated, instead of being mostly interchangeable. The film’s primary gimmick — that the killer is profiling the profilers — wasn’t really supported by the facts of the plot.
Still, the movie has no pretensions, and it gets right down to business. When the final line of cheesy action-movie dialogue is delivered, you can laugh at it or with it — take your pick — knowing that you’ve seen an unapologetic B movie. At least you will have been entertained.