Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: Suspenseful "Taking Lives" is Also Predictable (Happy B'day, Ethan Hawke)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 36 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Taking Lives (2004)
Running time:  103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence including disturbing images, language and some sexuality
DIRECTOR:  D.J. Caruso
WRITER:  Jon Bokenkamp, from a screenstory by Jon Bokenkamp (based upon the novel by Michael Pye)
PRODUCER:  Mark Canton and Bernie Goldmann
EDITOR:  Anne V. Coates
COMPOSER:  Philip Glass

CRIME/MYSTERY/THRILLER with elements of action and drama

Starring:  Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland, Gena Rowlands, Olivier Martinez, TchĂ©ky Karyo, Jean-Hughes Anglade, and Paul Dano

The subject of this movie review is Taking Lives, a 2004 psychological thriller from director D.J. Caruso.  The film is loosely based on the novel, Taking Lives, a thriller written by Michael Pye and first published in 1999.  Taking Lives the movie focuses on an FBI profiler who is called in by French Canadian police in order to help them catch a serial killer that takes on the identity of each new victim.

Have modern film audiences seen everything?  Are they too jaded?  Sometimes I think they are, and sometimes I don’t.  Still, if films like Taking Lives are any indication, someone thinks film audiences, if they haven’t seen it all, have seen a lot.  Perhaps, a directors and screenwriters feel impelled to employ every twist and turn of a plot or story to shock the audiences into thinking, “Gee, I’ve never seen that before!”

In Taking Lives, Angelina Jolie is Illeana, an FBI profiler on loan to the French Canadian police in Montreal.  She is trying to track a serial killer who takes on the identity of each new victim.  When the police turn up Costa (Ethan Hawke), an alleged witness to one of the killer’s crimes, Illeana has an important lead in finding the illusive murderer, but when she begins to have strong feelings for Costa, she ends up getting dangerously closer to the mystery killer than she ever intended.

The film is competently directed, enough so to make it a standard and maybe a bit clunky, by-the-book thriller.  The acting is somewhat suspect.  In some scenes, Ms. Jolie hits her stride and without a word of dialogue, she’s able to transform Illeana from the typical, cardboard cutout FBI girl detective into a serious investigator with creepy insight into the mind of a psycho killer.  At other moments, her performance is pedestrian, and the only thing left for the viewer is to enjoy her beauty and admire those magical lips.

Taking Lives has some genuinely suspenseful and terrifying moments, but early in the film it starts to be a little too obvious who the killer really is and everything else becomes poorly disguised red herrings.  Taking Lives isn’t all that bad; it’s actually quite intriguing in a few places.  However, it’s not necessarily worth a trip to the theatre, but it’ll probably make a fairly decent rental.

5 of 10

Updated:  Wednesday, November 06, 2013

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