Review: “Taking Lives”

Every bit as stupid as last month’s “Twisted,” “Taking Lives” proves another bland retread of the serial killer genre despite having what initially sets out to be an interesting premise and strong cast.

Jolie returns to the genre she played a few years back in the run of the mill yet far stronger Phil Noyce thriller “The Bone Collector” but it seems she hasn’t learned any of her past lessons. The film’s distinct look and Jolie’s presence are about the only remarkable features of the otherwise very routine events in this film which follows all the cliches from body’s falling out of places to her special ‘sixth sense’ for profiling killers.

The trouble is the film’s opening and closing spoil much of its runtime. By starting with a flashback to 1983 when the killer was a young boy, we’re already given an idea as to who this person will become. As it moves to the present, we’re not offered up much in the way of suspects and one or two red herrings are visible from a mile away. If that’s not enough, Jolie’s character loses all credibility when a haphazard romance subplot is forced in, then to top it all off comes a hopelessly drawn out and silly denouement which makes everything into one big joke.

The location shooting in Montreal and Quebec City, combined with the assorted French/Spanish supporting cast members lend a slightly old world European sensibility to the film’s visuals. Amir M. Mokri’s cinematography and Philip Glass’ score are both effectively atmospheric and moody and far better than this material deserves. Jolie is fine in the lead but really needs to pick better material than this, and the assorted other American parts (Hawke, Sutherland, Rowlands) do fine, but aren’t as amiable as the likeable Karo, the seasoned Anglade or the fury-driven Martinez.

So what does it have going for it? The scares do work at one or two points (one scene in a bedroom is a real jumper), and the central premise of a man killing and taking over the lives of someone is an interesting idea. The ‘mother’ subplot has potential but is never really explored and even though it does mess up the film a bit, the opening on its own is a strong piece. A decent rental maybe but hardly a film, rent an old copy of ‘Seven’, ‘Silence’ or ‘Copycat’ instead.