Taking Lives (2004) Poster

(2004)

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If you have intelligence, prepare to have it insulted
iago-630 March 2004
Warning: 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 anyway.

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
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6/10
Taking Stuff, from other films
The_Void3 April 2006
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.
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Predictable For Movie Buffs, But Still Enjoyable.
BigHardcoreRed28 December 2004
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.
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7/10
Creepy, sinister and moody. But SE7EN it ain't...
Freedomisanillusion15 April 2004
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.
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A compendium of serial killer movie clichés,but quite fun for all that
DrLenera26 July 2005
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.
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2/10
taking liberties, more like
CountZero31310 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
At one point in this film FBI agent Jolie goes to the house of the serial killer to talk with his Mum. She twigs that Mum is 'hiding something', and has blocked off a door to a basement room. Jolie breaks in during the wee small hours, and goes down to the room. She lies on the bed. Suddenly the killer's arm crashes through the bed, grips her, and throws her across the room.

I jumped out of my skin.

But then when I calmed down, I thought: What was the Mum hiding that room for? Why was the killer lying under the bed in a deserted house? Why did he punch THROUGH the bed? Why did he not kill Jolie? That one scene is indicative of this whole movie - sloppy, sub-standard, derivative, join-the-dots with a crayon film-making. Throw in a horror-movie 'boo' shout, and never mind if it makes absolutely no sense in terms of the plot.

Ethan Hawke is the bad guy because there is a complete lack of alternatives provided. Blind Freddie on a galloping horse could spot Hawke for the bad guy. The FBI, ehm, 'expert' not only misses it, she gets into bed with him. Ho-hum.

Jolie, Hawke, Sutherland - quality actors who must have had a collective failure of judgment to sign up to this script. A real stinker.
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4/10
undistinguished thriller
Roland E. Zwick9 January 2005
"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.
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5/10
For Angelina Jolie's fans only
christian12321 November 2004
Warning: 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
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6/10
Taking Lives Entertaining But Predictable
tburke8519 June 2009
Taking Lives is entertaining but predictable from director D.J. Caruso whose admirable in making this thriller but there are flaws that weigh it down. Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke are good as the two leads. Oliver Martinez, Tcheky Karyo, Jean-Hugh Anglade, and Gena Rowlands are effective as the supporting characters but they lack screen time and development because most of the focus is on Jolie. Kiefer Sutherland is solid in a brief extended appearance before being written out of the movie rather quickly. The rest of the cast are okay in their roles but no one stands out. The movie does have a little suspense but it doesn't pay off because the eventual twist I sort of saw coming. There's a little action including a chase that's well executed but the movie could've used more of it. If there was more suspense, action, character development, and a different twist besides the one they went with the film would've have been that bad. Taking Lives starts off decent but after a while it becomes kind of obvious who the killer is and after the reveal there's no more suspense. The pacing was a little slow at times which didn't help either. Lucikly Caruos kept the running time down to 103 minutes so it's not a total waste of time. Overall despite it's flaws Taking Lives is an okay thriller with a little suspense, action, and solid performances by the cast who make this movie worth watching at least once but after it's over you can't help but feel a little disappointed.
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Promising, but falls apart
E. Catalan3 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
TAKING LIVES is the story of Scott (angelina Jolie) as an FBI agent looking to solve a series of killings along with the Montreal Police department. It appears the killer "adopts" the personality of its victims, going as far as using their credit cards and even paying his taxes. The movie opens with a bang and has a promising outlook. The premise is interesting but, as the movie flows, things fall by the wayside. We never know the real motives behind the supposed killer (played by a very unconvincing Ethan Hawke) and why Keifer Sutherland's character lasts a blink of an eye is really such a waste of talent it made me cringe. The movie holds its pace, with some sudden scares here and there (some cool make up effects for the gore fans) and has a "twist" ending, but all in all, TAKING LIVES could have been a far better film given the main idea of the story. Not bad, but not particularly good either (6* out of 10)
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