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Who The Devil Are You? [Film Only Review]
Taking Lives (Director's Cut, DVD)
Member Name: plipplop
Taking Lives (Director's Cut, DVD)
Date: 11/08/06, updated on 17/08/06 (146 review reads)
Advantages: Won't you ride with me?
Disadvantages: Se7en wannabe
Taking Lives takes a rather more sinister step into the world of identity theft. In this movie, the motivation is much more than just cash. In Taking Lives, the victim does not only lose his identity – he very quickly loses his life also.
A serial killer is on the loose. The method of murder remains largely the same with each victim, whereby the face is beaten to a pulp. The police are making little progress and an FBI profiler named Illeana is asked to go to French Canada to help the authorities track down the killer before the death toll rises once more. But finding the killer is no easy matter. The only clue rests with a young artist named Costa, who witnesses one of the killings outside his health club. But who is tracking who? A mysterious man is already watching Costa from the shadows…..
Clearly inspired by countless other serial killer movies, Taking Lives really is nothing terribly new. Playing to a tried and tested formula, the ingredients are all there. Firstly, we have a beautiful, yet vulnerable young FBI agent, upon whose perception the police are relying to solve the case. A dark, broody policeman follows next, opposed to the FBI presence and determined to make things as unpleasant for her as possible. A civilian witness to whom the FBI agent finds herself unswervingly attracted adds some romantic interest to things and finally a nut case with a hidden identity wanders round and stalks the lot of them. You could never really go into this movie expecting great things.
And if you did, you’d be disappointed, because there really is nothing great here. There is good, but there is also bad – and a bit of downright awful too.
The film opens well – very well, in fact. The first ten minutes are tense, intriguing and really quite shocking. Did anyone else see that one coming? Sadly, this is probably the best section of the movie, and the shocks and thrills are generally few and far between, hereafter. Angelina Jolie (Illeana) is generally a rather over-rated actress in my opinion, and in Taking Lives she plays the game very safely. As the film progresses, you get rather bored of her attempts to pout enigmatically, and any attempt to be emotional is relegated strictly to the amateur school of acting. There’s a horrifically unsexy sex scene, which seems to exist only for the sake of its own existence and it is only really in the last two minutes of the film that I swayed towards slightly liking the character.
The other characters don’t fare much better either. The young French Canadian policeman Paquette (Olivier Martinez) is lively, passionate (and sexy) but his presence in the film seems rather contrived. Just as handsome English men normally turn out to be the bad guy, handsome young French men will turn out to be rebellious, misogynistic hard men and Paquette is no exception. As soon as Costa (Ethan Hawke) arrives on the scene, you just know that Jolie is going to fall for his charms and it then becomes a case of waiting for the inevitable to happen.
The story is a strange mixture of “serial killing by numbers” with just enough twists thrown in to keep things interesting. The pace doesn’t work – a jolt of action, followed by a lull and then a burst of renewed action before the pace slows again. Any attempt to build suspense or intrigue in the film fails clumsily and the detective work is actually very hard to find as well. The whole concept of profilers always sits very awkwardly with me, as writers very often seem to rely on the perception of such characters to save the day, with plausibility disappearing out of the window. The strange thing about Taking Lives is that if I sit and think back now as to how the police solve the case, I’m not entirely sure how it was done. The FBI profiler strikes again, I think.
I did say that there were good things about this film, however and that remains the case. The French Canadian setting works extremely well – it’s not only Jolie that provides the eye candy. The sumptuous, historic setting adds an extra quality to the film that would surely have been missing had the film been set in New York or Los Angeles. The opening scene is extremely effective and strangely enough, I also found the climax rather satisfying in an unexpected way. It must have been the lull of the rest of the film, but I hadn’t really seen this coming, contrary to the many other reviewers who have expressed an opinion in the press.
Nonetheless, the very disappointing thing for me in this film was the rather shallow exploration of the serial killer. The whole idea of the killer taking on the victim’s identity is not really examined properly, and the audience is left to assume and gloss over the many plot holes that exist. The film is constructed in a deliberately confusing way, using red herrings and dead end plot threads to keep you guessing, but this finally undermines your ability to accept things as they are presented. I think it is a fair reflection of the film that by the time it had finished, I didn’t really care about any of the characters or what happened to them. If serial killer films really are your thing then the likes of Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs will – and should – remain classics of the genre, with Taking Lives providing only a very superficial level of entertainment in the mean time. Despite one or two moments of semi-gore, it really isn’t nasty enough to call itself a classic.
Not a terrible movie, by any means, but not recommended either.
Summary: Disappointing Serial Killer Flick