Wretched in almost every respect, Mindhunters attempts a new take on an old theme. But excessive violence, hysterical directorial overkill and a cast of mostly glamorous non-actors make this relatively short film seem much longer than it really is.

The plot concerns a group of FBI profiler trainees dumped on an island off North Carolina, where they're supposed to solve a hypothetical crime thought up by their teacher (Val Kilmer). They're the usual mixed-sex-and-race gaggle of stereotypes, including one guy who's in a wheelchair (Clifton Collins, Jr.), and another with a thick British accent (Eion Bailey). How these last two made it into the FBI is anyone's guess, but that's the least of Mindhunters' problems.

Borrowing from the Ten Little Indians template, our protagonists soon start dying in gruesome ways, which leaves those remaining to realize there's an honest-to-God serial killer in their midst. The majority of the film is given over to finding out who the psychopath is, as the FBI types investigate, scream at one another, and wallow in paranoia about their fellow trainees.

All this has, of course, been done about three million times before (Rene Clair's 1945 And Then There Were None remains the best of the bunch), so if you're going to riff on this hoary subject matter, you'd better come up with something new. Mindhunters' sole contribution is the gruesome ways in which people die: One is frozen to death by liquid nitrogen, his body cracking up into little pieces; another has his head lopped off and all the blood drained from his body; still another is pierced in the chest and jugular by steel arrows...you get the point.

Not surprisingly, Mindhunters ends in an orgy of violence, and even though the identity of the killer is actually something of a surprise, by this point it would be truly astonishing if anyone in the audience truly cared. One of those numbing experiences filled with sound and fury and signifying you-know-what, the existence of a film like Mindhunters raises three important questions: Wasn't director Renny Harlin considered at one time to be a rather promising action auteur? What happened to his career? And when will he return to his native Finland for good?
-Lewis Beale