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Taking Lives

1 rating: -1.0
A movie directed by D.J. Caruso

With superb investigative skills heightened by uncanny natural instincts, Iliana Scott (Angelina Jolie) is not a typical FBI profiler. This beautiful, no-nonsense Special Agent is a cut above the rest, which is why her old friend Captain Le Claire (Tcheky … see full wiki

Tags: Movies, Dramas
Director: D.J. Caruso
Release Date: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about Taking Lives

Not a Complete Waste of Time, But Almost!

  • Nov 7, 2004
Pros: Acting is exceptional; scenes of Montreal make me want to visit.

Cons: Script, script, script; too many plot holes.

The Bottom Line: I am glad I waited for the DVD release, and did not spend theater-grade money to see this movie.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

Is it me or is Angelina Jolie traveling down the same dead end cinematic road that fellow actress Ashley Judd seems to traversing? Both are more then capable of turning in remarkable performances in good movies, but for undisclosed reasons have decided pick big budget vehicles where their acting talents are buried under badly written scripts, inane, implausible, and oft-times forgettable plot lines.

In the case of Angelina, she has tended to take roles that end up with her in some way showing off her able endowments. Not that as a red-blooded American male, I am complaining overly much, but I do not go to mainstream big-budget Hollywood movies for a peepshow (alone); I do want an intelligent well written plausible movie. Is that too much to ask?

That is not what I got with Taking Lives a poorly scripted movie (based on a novel by Michael Pye and adapted for the screen by Jon Bokenkamp) about yet another serial killer, but this time with a twist: it is set in Canada, centered on French speaking Montreal. Taking Lives starts out sinister and plausible enough to peak my interest, but all too soon the movies loses its way.


Directed by D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea)— who up to this point is known more for his television credits then the silver screen—Taking Lives, stars Jolie (Hackers, Gia, Girl Interrupted) as Illeana Scott, a FBI profiler sent to Montreal to help the police catch a serial killer. Illeana has a reputation for really digging into the mind of the person she is profiling using her remarkable intuition, insight, and cool demeanor, she just the women for the job. That, and the lead detective on the Montreal force, Leclair portrayed by TchĂ©ky Karyo (Kiss of the Dragon, The Good Thief, The Core) is an old friend, he having studied at the FBI’s crime school in Quantico Virginia. Illeana quickly concludes that this particular serial killer steals his victims' identities as a means of staying invisible to the world, trying to be anyone by himself.

And then there is Costa, portrayed brilliantly by Ethan Hawke (Dead Poets Society, Gattaca, Snow Falling on Cedars), a witness (and artist) to the latest brutal attack by the illusive serial killer, who turns out not be who he claims to be an artist. Agent Scott is drawn to Costa and uncharacteristically relaxes her guard and lets Costa inside. And when the artist starts receiving threats, Scott wonders if she can be effective or objective, and attempts to leave but is talked into staying by Leclair. Not long after Costa and Agent Scott becomes romantically involved, after Scott is convinced they are narrowing in on the killer.

Almost along for the ride are Scotts two French-Canadian partners one Paquette portrayed by Olivier Martinez (Bullfighter, Unfaithful, S.W.A.T.), resents Scott being called in to help them, while the other, Duval portrayed by Jean-Hugues Anglade a virtual new comer to American audiences, does seem to mind that much.

And oh yes, lest I forget, Gena Rowlands (Peyton Place, Two Minute Warning) portrays the serial killers’ mother and Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys, Young Guns, Flatliners) portrays Hart, a shadow figure who is only in a few frames. Both of these sterling actors deserve more camera time in my estimation, if for nothing more then to lend substance to porous the plot.

Perhaps the best part of the movie comes at the end with Agent Scott finally gets her man, though I will not reveal who he is, or how she does it. The take down is I can tell you the most suspenseful sequence of the movie, and it is gleefully bereft of special effects.


I did not go into this film expecting great things and I wasn’t disappointed. After all, in how many more direction can you take the serial killer story line? They kill, often in the most gruesome fashion, end of story. And besides there were several plot holes in Taking Lives that were hard to ignore or forgive. For instance, after over a decade of hiding in the shadows, why did our boy suddenly crave the spotlight? What set him in this direction? These questions are never explored. And what made the killer the way he is. There were hints and clues to his behavior, like his twin dying and a secret room in his mother’s home, but which was the catalyst; why was he kept in the basement, because he was evil, or did his mother make him that way? And finally what is Illeana’s life make her so driven; why does she shun human contact; why is he so closed off?

In the end these questions sat in the back of my mind begging to answered, but never were. They became a distraction, one that made it hard to enjoy Taking Lives, because it in the final analysis made little sense. Not that the performance were not brilliant; Jolie and Hawke shared a chemistry that was almost palpable. And no one does eroticism like Jolie. Be that as it may, I am glad I waited for the DVD release, and did not spend theater-grade money to see this movie.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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