Mindhunters (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Mindhunters is an action/mystery/thriller kind of thing from Renny Harlin. It was made in 2002, and it is finally coming out - more than two years after the official release date. Actually, I should have said the "first official release date," because the film has been delayed three times already. At various times, the release dates have been:

  • April 4th 2003.
  • August 22nd 2003.
  • January 9th 2004.
  • May 13, 2005

I'm not sure of the exact reasons for the delays. I know that Renny Harlin kept cutting and re-cutting the film because he wanted to improve the pacing, but I don't know the relationship between that and the delays. The two circumstances may be partially or totally independent of one another, because the existing theatrical cut seems about the same to me as the version I watched in 2003. Of course, I can't remember it scene-by-scene, so I may be wrong. Ultimately it doesn't matter because, irrespective of the problems this thriller may have had, or the problems the studio bosses may have had with it, I liked it. It's a fun popcorn movie.

The premise is simple:

The FBI trains people to profile serial killers. The classroom training is supplemented by various simulation exercises. The final test occurs on a deserted island which has been set up to duplicate some American urban scenes. The Bureau isolates the latest class of profiler-trainees on the island for a weekend simulation exercise, but they start getting killed for real. They realize that there is a serial killer in their very ranks, and that the killer has been trained to think exactly like them.

Director Renny Harlin is a guy who's not afraid to get playful with film conventions, so I can't reveal too much more about the plot, because almost anything I write would be a spoiler of some kind, and the film is clever enough that it should stay unspoiled. Let me just say that if Harlin had directed an episode of Star Trek, Captain Kirk would have died on a distant planet and the red shirt dudes would have come home safely. Remember in Deep Blue Sea (another Harlin film) when Sam Jackson, the biggest star in the film, bought the farm? Expect more of that kind of thing in this film. 'Nuff said.

The character development isn't deep, and there is no real audience identification with any single character, but that doesn't really matter. In fact that is probably preferable in this case. It's a mind-games film, and we are not supposed to rule out any suspect(s). If we identified with one or two characters, we might eliminate them as murder suspects. The scriptwriter doesn't want us to do that, so he tries to keep a significant emotional distance between the audience and the characters.

The film does have a critical flaw which keeps it from being a genre masterpiece. It has a "who cares?" ending which really doesn't provide a tight logical connection to the previous events. The ultimate solution to the mystery does not offer the sublime pleasure of revelation which any good puzzle film should ultimately provide.

On the other hand, getting there is a lot of fun, and you'll keep changing your mind about how it's going to end, so it will keep you involved in the puzzle, even if it does ultimately disappoint you with an arbitrary ending. The film has some real plusses. The first five minutes are terrific - this segment is a mini-movie unto itself, a real nail-biter that catches the audience by surprise. It's not something that hasn't been done before, but it is done well. The subsequent action on the island is quick and clever and atmospheric, and the film has an original look - that island is tres cool.

Bibloi.com summed it the big picture very well:

Mindhunters will be liked by fans of the genre, and will have them at the edges of their seats, guessing until the end as to the explanation of all these murders, occasionally jumping because of a music-cue, visually gory moment, or situation of excruciating suspense. Renny Harlin knows which buttons to push, and even though he does not do it with much originality, he does it with flair.

I agree with that assessment. If it sounds like your kind of movie, you should find Mindhunters worth a look.



  • Commentary by director Renny Harlin
  • Profiling Mindhunters
  • Stunt Sequence
  • A Director's Walk through Crimetown


  • Christian Slater - a long zoom on his naked body from the rear, maybe 20 seconds of butt, shown in the POV of someone sneaking up on him
  • Patricia Velasquez - she's in the shower with Slater, but there's not much to see because of elbows, editing, and camera angles.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. Entertaining thriller that had me jumping and kept me involved.

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