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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 Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

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 older teenagers.

Copyright 2004 Steve Rhodes

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