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Taking Lives (18)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: A Crime Lab; Taking Lives documentary; Gag reel; Trailer; Trailer for Troy.

ANGELINA Jolie’s Taking Lives may be about a serial killer who assumes the lives and identities of his victims, but it could just as easily apply to the movie itself, which consistently occupies familiar territory.

The film contains elements of Se7en, The Talented Mr Ripley and Jolie’s own The Bone Collector, to name but a few, before eventually going it alone and becoming quite nasty, as a result.

Jolie stars as the eccentric Special Agent Illeana Scott, who is called in to help detectives, in Montreal, get inside the head of an elusive killer, who appears to be ‘life-jacking’ his victims.

The killer in question would appear to have been operating for the past 20 years, but, for the first-time, the cops have a witness, in the form of Ethan Hawke’s struggling art dealer, James Costa, who stops the psychopath in the act.

In doing so, Costa finds himself the next target, and is quickly seized upon by the police as bait, but matters are complicated when Scott finds herself romantically drawn to the charismatic hero as well.

Thrown into this volatile mix are the likes of Olivier Martinez’s arrogant young detective, who resents Scott’s presence for seemingly no reason, and Kiefer Sutherland’s dubious stranger, who becomes the investigators’ lead suspect.

Loosely based on the novel by Michael Pye, Taking Lives starts off as an intriguingly creepy serial killer thriller, in the atmospheric mould of Se7en, before losing its way completely, amid a torrent of illogical plot twists and unlikely character developments.

By failing to stick to the source material, however, director, DJ Caruso, tends to lose sight of the film’s focus, straying into the action thriller and erotic drama genres, as the psychological aspect of the plot becomes increasingly less coherent.

What’s worse, is that the identity of the killer quickly becomes apparent, thereby hindering the film’s ability to surprise by about the halfway stage.

Such failures are forgivable for the first three quarters of proceedings, during which the film stays the right side of entertaining, but when Caruso opts for cheap shock tactics, as in the final moments, viewers are left with a bitter taste in the mouth.

There can really be no justification for showing scenes of a pregnant woman being beaten up and, by doing so, the film feels exploitative.

Of the performances, Jolie acquits herself well in the lead role, displaying a nice mix of feistiness and vulnerability, but too many of the other performers feel under-used. Sutherland, especially, isn’t allowed enough screen-time to justify his presence (or billing), while Martinez’s over-eager detective warrants greater exploration than he is given, and also feels wasted.

And while the set pieces are competently handled, they increasingly feel as though they are being employed to mask the plot’s failings, which once more diminishes the impact of the early stages.

Serial killer enthusiasts who relish being tested will lament the way this plays out, as, by the time it reaches its grisly conclusion, they probably won’t credit Taking Lives with anything other than taking liberties.

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