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Taking Lives

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Taking Lives

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke
Director: D.J. Caruso
Rated: R
RunTime: 103 Minutes
Release Date: March 2004
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Olivier Martinez, Gena Rowlands, Jean-Hughes Anglade, Paul Franklin Dano, Richard Jutras

Review by Susan Granger
1½ stars out of 4

Watching the chain of visually visceral shocks that punctuate this mind-numbing thriller could serve as a basic screenwriting lesson. If you don't develop sympathetic, interesting or even likable characters that the audience cares about, they have no one to root for as the plot plays out.

After a prologue that begins in 1983 with the graphic depiction of a brutal murder, the story is set in contemporary Montreal, where local detectives handling a homicide investigation call in a top FBI profiler, Special Agent Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie). There's a ruthless serial killer on the loose and they're hoping her intuitive abilities will help them track him down. Using her own odd methodology, she deduces that he's "life-jacking," assuming his victims' lives and identities.

Problem is: neither screenwriter Jon Bokenkamp, who adapted the script from Michael Pye's novel, nor director D.J. Caruso has given Angelina Jolie a three-dimensional character. Her cold, emotionless demeanor is never explained, even when she strips for some steamy action between the sheets with one of her suspects. As an art dealer who serves as a key witness in the case, Ethan Hawke is engaging but the intensity of Keifer Sutherland is wasted in an elusive role that's inexplicable until the conclusion. And Olivier Martinez is unintelligible as a French policeman. In fact, Philip Glass's music is the only element that makes the structure and tone of some of the grisly, fault-filled scenes plausible, along with solid support from experienced thespians Tcheky Karyo and Gena Rowlands. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Taking Lives" is a floundering, forgettable 4. If the intent was to develop Jolie's persona into a kind of Clarice Starling (Hannibal Lecter's FBI nemesis), it fails so completely that it's ludicrous.

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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