Taking Lives

"Weak"

Taking Lives Review


Even with her latest turn as bodacious, babe-a-licious video game vixen Lara Croft still clinging to her like a skin-tight silver catsuit, Angelina Jolie is surprisingly credible as a prim and professional FBI profiler in "Taking Lives." Now, if only the plot of this serial killer thriller could have kept up with her in that department.

A slight, and slightly smarter, twist on the genre's average assembly-line offering, the movie's hook is that the unidentified psycho assumes the lives of the people he kills -- mostly handsome, young, well-to-do loners (if there is such a thing). So he could be anyone from the handsome young Montreal detective (Oliver Martinez) who's bitter that Jolie's been brought in on his case, to the handsome young painter (Ethan Hawke) who is the only witness to one of the murders, to the handsome, ominous stranger (Kiefer Sutherland) who seems to be stalking the artist.

But while director D.J. Caruso ("The Salton Sea") takes a judicious, stylish, slow-burn approach to the suspense (this isn't a tawdry twist-a-minute attempt to get your heart pounding), he can't outsmart the holes in the plot (adapted from a novel by Michael Pye), even if most of them appear only in retrospect -- after the dumb, patronizing and currently fashionable second-climax epilogue.

The film begins by showing the unknown killer as a nebulously-featured teenager (Paul Dano) committing what may be his first murder in 1983, then moves on to a creatively narrative title sequence that shows flashes of autopsy reports of his unsolved murders over the next 20 years -- murders meticulously covered up (since the psycho assumed the identities of his victims) and apparently never linked together by the Canadian police.

But for some unexplored reason (other than the functional one of jump-starting the plot), our nutter has left his latest corpse for the cops to find, and then kills again a couple days later in the same manner. The shaken Hawke becomes the detectives' only lead when he provides them with details of what he witnessed and, being an artist, his own sketch of the suspect.

Compulsive tracker Jolie is brought in on the case by her old mentor (Tcheky Karyo), the Montreal Police chief. This, of course, chagrins the lead detectives (Martinez and Jean-Hughes Anglade) on the case, one of whom continues to display a chip on his shoulder even as she rapidly puts together a picture of the killer and his M.O. with puzzle pieces they weren't experienced enough to know they had. (Not too many serial killers in tranquil Montreal, you know.)

The actress lends her character a savvy sense of intellect -- you can see the wheels turning in her head as she takes in every detail of each crime scene. But as such, her chemistry-lacking relationship with Hawke becomes the movie's lynchpin failing. It's hard enough believing a woman this dedicated would let herself be attracted to a witness, but even granting the premise, Hawke has a hard time reconciling his character's rattled nerves (which continue since the killer appears to be stalking him) with his incongruously smooth seduction of Jolie's sexy FBI agent. When he turns up at her hotel room and backs her up against a wall for a fiery first kiss and subsequent sex scene, you can't help but wonder what happened to the anxious guy who was afraid for his life just a few scenes before.

"Taking Lives" does effectively spread suspicion around, but this contradiction sets the tone for the rest of the picture as it devolves from fairly canny red herrings into chase scenes and over-embellished switcheroos.

I won't give anything away, except to say even when all Jolie's puzzle pieces are in place, the movie leaves many questions unanswered (why start taunting the police after 20 years of going unnoticed?), and inspires several more before moving on to a fishy, exploitive finale that feels more like a dictate of lowest-common-denominator test screenings than an organic part of the plot.



Taking Lives

Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Friday 19th March 2004

Box Office USA: $32.6M

Box Office Worldwide: $32.7M

Distributed by: Warner Bros.

Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Atmosphere Entertainment MM

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 22%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 122

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Illeana Scott, as James Costa, as Christopher Hart, as Mrs. Rebecca Asher, as Paquette

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.