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"Taking Lives" is a standard-issue, run-of-the-mill thriller about a
serial killer and the FBI agent determined to capture him. When bodies
start piling up in the Montreal area, the agent - an expert in serial
killer profiling - is brought in to assist the local authorities in
finding the culprit. The perpetrator's modus operandi is to target men
roughly his own age and build, murder them in cold blood, then assume
their identities. Once he grows tired of living their lives, he
proceeds to his next victim. Ethan Hawke plays a man who's witnessed
the most recent of the killings and who may now be next in line on the
man's hit list.
"Taking Lives" sticks pretty much within the confines of its overworked genre. We have the disgruntled local cop who resents interference from a hotshot outsider; the prime suspect who turns out to be just another of the killer's many victims; and the double twist resolution which really isn't all that hard to see coming twenty minutes or so into the movie. Jolie gives her usual wooden performance as the FBI agent, barely managing to register a single convincing emotion throughout the course of the film. Hawke does his best with the material, though there really isn't much he can do with it apart from going through the motions, which he does reasonably well. Gena Rowlands and Keefer Sutherland are also on hand to lend their talents, but since their roles are fairly miniscule, they don't have much of a chance to display their wares as actors.
Although watchable, "Taking Lives" feels like a weak-spined, half-hearted effort in an already played-out genre. It is an instantly forgettable film.
If I had to write a one sentence review for Taking Lives, it would be,
"If you have seen a ridiculous amount of thriller movies and have seen
all the twists and turns before, then this movie is very predictable,
if you haven't, it is worth a look and you may even be surprised." For
those that want more, please read on.
I believe the casting for this movie was as close to perfect as they were going to get. Angelina Jolie stars as FBI Agent Illeana Scott. Illeana has both strengths and weaknesses,which are both done in the right way. She is a very smart detective and can pick up clues that many could not and leads the way to many places that the other detectives would never have found. She does not come off as the hardened, tough cop that would have made this movie much worse. Instead, she usually gets the short end of the stick when forced to do physical battle with lowlifes and even other cops. She is flawed and vulnerable but can put up a hell of a fight when needed but relies on her brain to beat a larger and stronger foe. For an example of how to do this the wrong way, see Ashley Judd (of whom I'm also a fan of) in Twisted.
Olivier Martinez plays a character I find hard to like at any part of the film named Paquette. Paquette is a Canadian cop who has issues with bringing the FBI in (I'm not sure if the FBI actually assists in Canadian affairs, but this is just a movie). Olivier seems likable as a person and I'm not familiar with his work, as I'm sure it is mostly French. I'll chalk it up to good acting.
Keifer Sutherland had only what seemed to be a bit part here and could have been used a bit more. He was probably in and out in 2 days of filming.
And finally, Ethan Hawke did a fine job for his role, but I think they could have made a better choice for this character.
As I said earlier, those of us who see many of these types of movies will probably see most of the twists before they happen. Many of them well before they happen. Some of you will know everything that's going to happen before it happens, such as I did, but I still think it was a good story and was entertained. I can honestly recommend this one for at least a rental.
There are a lot of these crime thrillers about. Some, such as Copycat
and Insomnia, offer a surprisingly good time; but more often than not,
these films are a lot more like Murder by Numbers and The Bone
Collector, and unfortunately; Taking Lives is like the latter. That
being said, the film certainly isn't all bad; and definitely does have
its moments. The plot has little regard for consistency or logic, as it
constantly switches gears and throws in any number of events that are
clearly there for dramatic effect and haven't been thought out
properly. The film is an obvious derivative of successful nineties
thriller, 'Seven' and some scenes, such as the entry into the
murderer's home have been taken wholesale from the superior movie. The
plot has a lot of elements, but we principally follow FBI agent Illeana
Scott as she travels to Montreal in order to help their police force
with a case that involves a serial killer who, not content to simply
murder his victims, takes their identity and lives their lives for a
period before moving onto his next victim.
The cinematography is dark and glossy, and sleazy settings mean that it's always a lot like Fincher's earlier flick. The pace of the film is poorly paced, as sometimes it's fast and furious, while at other times it's very dull. At almost an hour and fifty minutes, the film is too long; and a better editing job is definitely in order. The final half hour is of particular note for being poorly judged. It's far too slow, and means that rather than being memorable; the conclusion is tepid and disorientated. The first twist can be seen coming a mile off, and the way that it is revealed disregards logic for dramatic effect. The final twist doesn't work well either, as everything is far too convenient. It seems that in their effort to outdo all the other films in its class, the writers have forgotten that for dramatic effect to work, it needs to make sense. The acting is good enough, and it's obvious why the dark and mysterious Angelina Jolie was cast in the lead. Ethan Hawke, who I seem to like more every time I see him, is good; while Kiefer Sutherland is given nothing at all to do. On the whole, this is worth a watch if you've got nothing better to do; but there are better films that are like 'Taking Lives', than Taking Lives.
Taking Lives is the story of a serial killer who murders loners and usurps
their identities for a time before moving on to the next victim. The story
centers around an FBI agent (Angelina Jolie) as she tracks the killer
I enjoyed this movie. It has the characteristic gore required for such films, but done in a far different way and in a manner that actually contributes to the plot, not just for the sheer shock value. It has the characteristic plot turns and twists designed to keep you guessing, but for the most part they are well thought out and not just gags from over-clever writers. And it does have a rather solid ending. Too many of these "keep you guessing" thrillers disappoint you in the end, this one doesn't.
Angelina Jolie is very solid in this role, redeeming her in my eyes after her stints in the horrible Lara Croft films. The supporting cast is good as well. Ethan Hawke (who plays a man believed to be the next victim) is less believable in his own role, sometimes he plays the character so obviously exaggerated it loses it's substance. This "obviousness" keeps me from giving it a 10, I can only give it an 8.
I am glad to finally have a film actually set in Canada with Canadian characters and locales, and not simply filmed there to save money.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is BAD. I knew going in that it was going to be bad, but I
enjoy a good cheesy thriller every now and then. Still, there are some
points of badness that really pass the point of any redeeming value.
It's a shame, because it had a great cast. Angelina is turning into one
of those actresses that one likes in SPITE of her work. It's too bad
she can't find something to take advantage of her uniqueness. But
The rest of this will be filled with COPIOUS SPOILERS, because we're going to pick the movie apart for the benefit of readers who have already seen it.
Oh dear, where to begin?
Let's begin with Ethan. I think it would have been MUCH more interesting to establish from the beginning (or about halfway through) that he was the killer (I mean intentionally. not just by making it so obvious to anyone who has seen a serial killer movie before, or, scratch that, anyone who has seen a MOVIE before). If you knew he was the killer they could develop this thing about WHY did he choose to put himself at the center of this investigation into his crimes? They could have played it off that he picked Angelina beforehand to manipulate. That would have been interesting. As it stands, once it's revealed that he's the killer, the whole entirety of his performance up til that point doesn't make any sense, and misses so many of the intriguing possibilities described above.
This is one of those movies where it seems the writer and director just hope you won't think too hard (or at all) about what happened before the moment unfolding on screen.
There was zero chemistry between Angelina and Ethan. They set up Angelina as this cool and confident FBI agent who's seen it all. why would she fall for this whiny loser artist? Her supposedly falling for him had 'Plot Twist' written all over it, because it betrayed the character, and the audience who had built up good feeling for her in spite of the screenplay. I also resented how she turned into such a broken shell of a woman after the 'shock' of Ethan being the killer was 'revealed.' Come on, the script had built her up as much more psychologically solid than that. If there had been the slightest heat between her and Ethan, we might have believed that her overwhelming passion 'clouded her judgment,' which is what I think we're supposed to believe, but it just fails spectacularly and ends up p**sing the audience off.
And while I don't want to be overly PC, there is really NO excuse for Angelina to say that it's OKAY for another (male) detective to HIT her (hard, too), especially when the reason he's hitting her is for being a weak woman who let her emotions cloud her judgment. I blame Angelina personally for that one, because she should have said 'No WAY am I shooting that.' It would be another thing if it added ANYTHING to the movie. Grrrr..
Ah, what else? I really enjoyed Keifer's 3.7 seconds of screen time.
I LOVED how the detective who is supposedly protecting Ethan--who is being shuttled out of the city because he's in so much danger--leaves him alone in the apartment for like five minutes (while one of the numerous red herrings of course shows up and attacks him) while he just waits outside by the car. Later a character says what a shame it is that a good cop like him got killed, and I was like, 'Good cop my ass! That doofus deserved it!'
And the whole thing about Angelina lying in the grave goes absolutely nowhere.
And who did that guy under the bed turn out to be? Did I miss the cursory explanation?
Someone just needs to issue a moratorium on generic serial killer movies with pointless plot twists for the sake of having plot twists. This is one of those movies with so many pointless twists and so many deliberate deceptions of the audience that eventually you just start to resent it. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a good old cheesy serial killer movie, like The Bone Collector, which was equally ridiculous, but in a fun way. but this one shows contempt of its audience and just pisses me off. Do these films make enough money anymore that they really still need to be made? I guess there has to be SOMETHING to show on airplanes.
And Angelina, seriously, drop me a line and I will WRITE you a script. In the meantime, you know dear, if you can imagine Ashley Judd being in it just as easily as yourself, maybe it's time to steer clear.
Oh, oh dear.
--- Check out website devoted to bad and cheesy movies: www.cinemademerde.com
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Angelina Jolie plays Special Agent Illeana Scott, an FBI profiler
brought to Quebec to solve the mysteries of a serial killer that
assumes the identities of his victims. Working with the disagreeable
Quebec police force, Illeana must protect a witness, who is the
killer's next potential victim (Ethan Hawke), but their relationship
becomes more personal forcing her to question her priorities.
The worst thing a thriller can be is predictable and that's exactly what Taking Lives is, predictable. It was still a decent thriller with some tense moments but the ending is quite obvious. The only reason I rated this film above a five is because of Angelina Jolie. I think she's a terrific actress and she does the best here with a lousy script. She's very convincing and just a treat to watch on screen. If only the rest of the film was as good. It starts off decently enough with a very scary opening. Then it takes a familiar path and everything becomes by the numbers. There was actually one twist that did take me by surprise. It's just too bad that the rest of the film couldn't be like that.
The other performances are quite good and they help keep things moving. Olivier Martinez and Gena Rowlands both give good performances. Kiefer Sutherland was in the movie for about five minutes yet he gets top billing. It's a little silly to hype him up when he actually didn't do anything. The only performance I didn't really like was from Ethan Hawke. He was so unconvincing and so easy to figure out. D.J. Caruso directs and he does a decent job. He isn't that great at creating suspense but he does offer a few chilling and tense moments. There was potential with this project and they really dropped the ball. It could have been a good, stylish thriller but it ends up being a mediocre one. In the end, this film is really just for Angelina Jolie's fans and there are better thrillers out there. Rating 6/10
Despite my love of Angelina Jolie, I must say that Taking Lives wasted
a lot of good opportunity.
Given that they invented an entirely new lead character, we can't really compare this to the book, so let's look at it as a movie of it's own right.
Jolie plays Illeana Scott, a somewhat strange FBI agent who is called up to Canada to investigate the grisly murders of several young men, all whom have had their identities stolen by the killer. New to the scene is witness James Costa, Ethan Hawke, who soon grows to have an attachment to Scott.
At turns formulaic and down right rip off (the credits are far too similar to be called a homage to SE7EN), Taking Lives is a very enjoyable piece of work.
Beautifully shot, the film wallows in its moods. It knows that it can be creepy, but it wears it out on its sleeves.
Angelina is on top form as Scott, although its a shame that the movie does stoop to the need for quick-sex-scene-with-unnecessary-titty-shot.
Ethan Hawke is bearable as Costa, although he and Jolie have very little chemistry.
Other players, Olivier Martinez, Gena Rowlands, Tcheky Karyo and Jean Hughes-Angalade are also quite good.
The film does have its highs: excellent cinematography, creepy sinister mood, two fantastic adrenaline-jump moments that I never saw coming. But it also has one FATAL flaw, and that is that anyone who has seen any piece of film or television before will be able to guess who the killer is. Still, a fun movie nevertheless.
7/10 If you get the chance to see it in the cinema, watch people's reactions to the 'scissors-scene'. I was amazed to see hoe genuinely horrified even the most hardened viewers in my cinema were.
Imagine Seven,The Bone Collector,Kiss The Girls,Red Dragon and a load
of similar movies all rolled into one,and you might get something like
Taking Lives. It's quite a stylish and sometimes exciting movie,it's
just almost completely lacking in originality. It's also pretty obvious
who the killer is early on,so the film's plot has to take some very
silly twists and turns to try to hide this.
Nevertheless,there is much that is good,perhaps it was realised that the script was mediocre and everybody tried hard to try to overcome this. Director David T. Caruso gives the film a very stylish feel,with some interesting use of camera angles and colour-check out the opening scene,in which the colour has been altered in some way to make it look somewhat dreamlike. A brief but exciting car chase and a murder in a lift are very well staged and edited. Angelina Jolie turns her unbelievable role into something approaching good,and Ethan Hawke almost matches her,especially near the end. Philip Glass's score is terrifically menacing,and the film is well paced,the first half slow but increasingly suspenseful and uneasy,the second half fast and full of action. There is also one 'jump' which really works well,I won't describe it but think of the hand coming out of the grave in Carrie...... The climax is over a little quickly,and gives us a supposed plot twist which is than proved to be fake. It would have been a lot more interesting if said plot twist was real.
Taking Lives never really delves into the twisted minds of it's two main protagonists nor truly gives a sense of evil as,for instance Seven did. It's one of those films that always seems on the verge of being really disturbing or thrilling and never gets there. Nevertheless,if you like serial killer movies,you're probably like this one,even if you will probably be able to guess much of the plot right from the beginning.
This was a so-so serial killer movie with good and bad marks. The good
marks were mainly for keeping the viewer's interest. You don't fall
asleep watching this film. Angeline Jolie looks as good as I've ever
seen her, facially and figure-wise.
The film loses marks for an easy-to-solve story, some credibility gaps especially later in the movie and too small a part for Keifer Sutherland to get third billing. He has a very short role in here, hardly worth billing which was a bit disappointing.
Also, the French accents by Jean-Hgues Anglade and Tcheky Karyo were hard for me to understand, forcing me to put on the English subtitles.
Taking Lives is a police procedural about a serial killer whose M.O. is to
`take' his successive victims' identities as well as their lives. He does
this because he doesn't like who he is. His mother (a campy Gena Rowlands)
preferred his twin brother and he vents his resentment about this over and
over in his life of gruesome crime. This approach to sequential murder is
the point of originality in what otherwise in most ways is a quite
conventional film. It's directed by D.J. Caruso, a director of many TV cop
flicks whose previous full-length movie, The Salton Sea, was a tweaker
with Val Kilmer and Vincent D'Onofrio that was rich in cheesy atmosphere.
This one makes more sense and carries some respectable thrills, but it's
certain it's altogether an improvement.
The movie begins with an intriguingly stylized prologue that shows the young teenage killer on his maiden voyage. He has probably already killed his twin brother. Now he has hit the road armed with a big wad of cash acquired by selling his mother's stolen jewelry, though we don't know all that till later. All we see is a sly, strange boy who meets another youth on a bus, hears his life story, and when the bus gets stuck on the highway, buys a cheap used car for them to continue traveling in. While they're fixing a flat, he pushes his traveling companion in front of a passing truck and his life of murderous identity theft begins.
The staging of this segment is edgy, the lighting baroque, the boys and the landscape vivid. While the filmmakers have our attention they create an original atmosphere that's not ever quite equaled when the story skips forward to the present.
For those of us weaned on Miss Marple, it's a bit of a shock to have a head dick as distractingly pretty as Angelina Jolie, she of the lips. Whether this was a smart career choice for Ms. Jolie is debatable. She works hard to be convincing. Another wrinkle - hardly a new one, though - is that once the killer has been `made', he constantly points out his similarities with her. She's FBI, but she's as focused on killing as he is. She dines and sleeps with photos of bashed heads and lopped limbs perched in front of her: she's a bit ghoulish in her obsession with her work. But serial killers and their chief investigators always bond, if we're to go by the Hannibal Lector stories.
Iliana (Jolie) has been called in by French Canadian homicide detectives, one of whom, Olivier Martinez, has lips as voluptuous as hers. His boss, Tchéky Karyo, is suave and European; but the best of the three, Jean-Hugues Anglade, is merely beat-up looking and real. It's another minor twist that this movie was not only shot in Canada, but is actually set there, though the filmmakers insist on perversely saying it's Montreal, while constantly showing views of Quebec City as establishing shots. All three French actors speak an English that's hard to understand. I could have done without Martinez's glam looks in favor of someone with clearer diction. His mumbles may have worked for him as Diane Lane's Euro-hunk lover in Unfaithful, but for a police procedural, they don't.
As time goes on the baroque cinematography, which casts three quarters of every scene in deep shadow, begins to be as murky as the staccato Frenchified dialogue. Nonetheless the movie is stylish and watchable, up to a point. Ethan Hawke appears as a nervous witness who tries to save one of the murder victims and makes a drawing of the killer. His role evolves into one of the edgiest things he's done. Already ravaged and gaunt from his impending breakup with Uma, poor chap, he gives this his tortured all. It's been a long way from the bland schoolboy role in Dead Poets Society that first brought him notice. Kiefer Sutherland does a turn that has become a cliché for him. The obvious surprises nonetheless still seem surprising, though the finale is pure camp, shameful really. A sudden car chase is irritating and unnecessary, though happily brief.
Since we began with a close look at the killer, throughout the rest we miss his point of view. Even when we get close to him we're teased into thinking we don't know who he is. The audience is left longing for a more intimate picture of the criminal psychopathic mind (à la Highsmith), the sort of thing that the flashback opening sequence hinted at. Throughout one feels that director Caruso is reaching for something a little bit original. He even has a score by Philip Glass, which used to be a distinction. It hardly is any more. There are three movies with Glass music showing right now: this, Secret Window, and The Fog of War. Taking Lives has been widely reviled by critics whose impatience with the genre makes them overlook the fact that it's really a bit above average - if we ignore the crappy final scene.
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