Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


TAKING LIVES (2004). Director: D. J. Caruso.

Angelina Jolie is an FBI profiler brought in to help track down a serial killer who repeatedly takes the lives – figuratively and literally – of a succession of victims whose identities he assumes until the next poor fellow comes along. Ethan Hawke is the witness to the latest horrific homicide. When Jolie finds herself drawn to Hawke, resulting in an intense if uncomfortable-looking sex scene, there at least seem to be consequences to her actions. Taking Lives holds the attention until it falls apart in the final quarter and becomes increasingly predictable and ridiculous. D. J. Caruso helms the film with professional vigor, but a Hitchcock he ain't. Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland (in a brief turn), Gena Rowlands (wasted as the mother of the killer), and others in the cast acquit themselves nicely for the most part, but Jolie, acting with her lips, wears one expression and one expression only throughout the entire film. (You have to see her blank – as opposed to numb -- reaction to a beheading in an elevator to believe it. Otherwise this grisly scene is well-handled.) Cobbled together from elements of many different thrillers, Taking Lives generally looks good but probably worked a lot better as a novel; the film version is a major disappointment. Philip Glass' score is hackneyed and entirely forgettable.

Verdict: You've seen it all before and you'll see it again. **.

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