Taking Lives

on March 19, 2004 by Bridget Byrne
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We're used to having to spend less time trying to catch serial killers. These days, endless episodes of weekly TV dramas get their murderer in well under an hour (minus the commercials) and often manage to throw in some moral speculation along the way. That makes it very difficult for a big-scale mainstream movie, clocking in at nearly double the screen time, to hold our attention, however attractive the pursuer and evasive the pursued.

"Taking Lives" doesn't pull off the trick, despite a high-profile star cast with convincing acting skills, and numerous--as usual, at least one too numerous--plot twists.

Angelina Jolie has her usual presence and watchability (though one does wonder why the French-Canadian police need to import an American FBI crime-solver). But as a character not in Michael Pye's original novel, she seems like what she is--tacked on. She's given too much action and not enough time for character development. The men she's in the middle of in the mean but attractive streets of Montreal and Quebec do their stuff, but can't do anything really original with the stuff they are given to do. Gena Rowlands brings her customary uniqueness to a nasty character, but then nobody here is actually nice. The serial killer's victims are mainly just revealed as plot devices--gruesome objects with a voice-over past--so even they can't drum up much sympathetic feeling from the audience.

Director D.J. Caruso handles the visual timing of the so-called surprises well, but the script has already suggested them too obviously by the time they actually arrive to create anything different in the way of genuine thriller moments.

As usual, one is left wondering why people, even if it is their job to snoop, go into dark places alone with weak flashlights, and how they manage, driving the wrong way very fast, to dodge more than just a couple of cars and come out alive.

A near miss of a thriller, but it's still a miss. Starring Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland, Gena Rowlands and Olivier Martinez. Directed by D. J. Caruso. Written by Jon Bokenkamp. Produced by Bernie Goldmann and Mark Canton. A Warner Bros. release. Action/Drama. Rated R for strong violence including disturbing images, language and some sexuality. Running time: 100 min

Tags: tarring Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland, Gena Rowlands and Olivier Martinez. Directed by D. J. Caruso. Written by Jon Bokenkamp, Produced by Bernie Goldmann, Mark Canton, Gena Rowlands and Olivier Martinez. Directed by D. J. Caruso, Written by Jon Bokenkamp, Warner Bros, Action, Drama
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