What do you get when you cross the director of THE SALTON SEA with the star of
BEYOND BORDERS? TAKING LIVES, a needlessly sloppy thriller that plays like
SE7EN LITE. Slackly paced, it works best in its few action sequences and in
those moments when it tricks the audience into jumping. Most of the time,
however, the movie is nauseatingly predictable. Angelina Jolie plays Illeana,
an FBI Special Agent assigned to help a reluctant team of Montreal cops in a
serial killer investigation. When they start cracking bad jokes about her
breasts, in French so that she won't understand them, you can see the scene
coming a mile away in which she proves to speak fluent French.
The cops' first break in the case occurs when a Good Samaritan named Costa
(Ethan Hawke) almost stops the killer before he gets away. Although Costa is
an initial suspect, Illeana has seventeen reasons that would make Sherlock
Holmes proud about why it absolutely and positively couldn't be Costa. The
prime suspect is a shadowy figure played by PHONE BOOTH's shooter, Kiefer
Sutherland. But maybe it's one of the cops, or perhaps it'll be a character
who comes out of left field. If you don't easily figure out the killer's
identity, you're not watching nearly enough detective fiction.
Every now and then the dialog gets nicely snappy, as when Costa remarks to the
police, "Have you ever been fishing? Well, the bait always dies." Most of the
time, however, the lines are such standard fare as, "Nice guys never get the
girl." Jolie, who plays her character with all of the warmth and emotion of a
slab of stone, does pant well in her one obligatory sex scene.
One thing is certain, if the police in Montreal are this inconsistent and
lackadaisical, you might want bring your own bodyguards if you visit there.
They don't like to call for back up, and, when guarding a victim targeted by a
psychopath, they think hanging out in the street, while the target is alone in
the apartment upstairs, is sufficient coverage. And one guard is plenty.
The ending is literally laughably bad on several levels. It also has a
horrendous moment in it, which is certain to make audiences squeamish and
angry. Most of all, TAKING LIVES is just frustrating. Well shot and
containing many entertaining moments, it is consistently undermined by its
careless script and by Jolie's emotional detachment from the material.
TAKING LIVES runs 1:50. It is rated R for "strong violence including
disturbing images, language and some sexuality" and would be acceptable for
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes