Retro Film Review: Taking Lives (2004)

in #filmlast month (edited)


It is refreshing to see that Canada, which has served as a location for endless Hollywood thrillers, is finally the actual plot setting of one Hollywood thriller. But this is, more or less, the only good thing that can be said of Taking Lives, 2004 film directed by D.J. Caruso.

Actually, there is another good element of this film - the opening scene which introduces film's villain. Runaway teenager Martin Asher (played by Paul Dano) discovers talent for killing people and stealing their identities. Two decades later Quebec police is dealing with very dangerous and intelligent homicidal psychopath and receive expert help in the form of Illeana Scott (played by Angelina Jolie), FBI agent and top psychological profiler. She quickly determines killer's modus operandi and motivations, but the real break in the case comes with James Costa (played by Ethan Hawke), Montreal gallery owner who witnessed the last murder. He apparently becomes killer's next target, so Illeana and her colleagues from Montreal decide to use him as bait.

Based on the novel by Michael Pye, Taking Lives is another sad proof that Hollywood can't make a decent serial killer film these days. What have looked very promising at the very beginning of the film starts to unravel in the moment when disastrously miscast Angelina Jolie enters the film and unsuccessfully tries to convince the audience that she is a top FBI profiler. What follows is the series of clichés that drain any life out of Taking Lives. Even those who haven't been watching many suspense thrillers these days won't have any problems predicting not only major plot points, but even minor events in the film. For example, Jolie's character drives around with Quebecois policemen who have great fun making sexist comments about her in French and think that she can't understand them. It doesn't take a great mind to predict that Jolie's character will, sooner or later, answer those policemen in their native language.

This lame attempt to reconcile humour and political correctness is nothing compared with the plot which is both ridiculously unbelievable and utterly predictable. It doesn't take much for the experienced viewer to determine the identity of the killer, obligatory romance between the characters and "surprise" twist at the very end. To make things worse, most characters in the film are utterly dislikeable and the romantic couple is played by actors who don't have one iota of mutual chemistry. Even the explicit sex scene – something which rarely appears in Hollywood thrillers these days – is poorly directed and un-erotic. Philip Glass' music soundtrack and likeable Montreal locations are poor excuse for audience to waste time on a thriller whose makers have problems with understanding meaning of the word "thrill".

RATING: 2/10 (-)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on March 2nd 2005)

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Dear @drax.

Angelina is a great actress always involved in action movies. We will never forget Lara Croft.
In this film, we can see a maturity in her acting life, since she, too, shows us dramatic gifts with the subplot that develops.

Definitely a great movie buff selection.

Yours, Piotr.