Taking Lives is part of the recent crop of Serial Killer Mysteries that follows two simple principles: 1) Do your best to make the whole thing look like Se7en, and 2) Make damned sure that everyone, but everyone is a suspect.
Now... on the surface, the latter sounds like it might be a good idea, because with red herrings abounding and every lead and extra on the chopping block, the audience will necessarily be riveted and kept guessing, yes?
Well, no. In fact, this is the laziest form of mystery-making. If you put blame or potential blame on every last character, then no matter who the "big bad" turns out to be, the audience will say "Well... well now it all makes sense!" This is, at core, the main problem with Taking Lives! The secondary problem with Taking Lives, one that instantly clashes with the first problem, is that as soon as the main cast is introduced, the identity of the Killer becomes obvious to anyone who has ever seen a mystery! I won't ruin it for you... the script will though.
A serial killer is on the loose in Quebec, and the local policia look to their neighbor to the South for help. Ready to answer the call is FBI Violent Crimes Profiler Illeana Scott (Jolie). Naturally, the local French Canadian cops are being a little... French... about it, clearly needing their eyes checked. I mean, DAMN! Only one man, a local Canadian artist named Costa (Hawke), has seen the killer's face, and so he's only too, too happy to help Illeana... especially if this helps him get her into the sack. And it does.
Through fictional profiling that wouldn't even stand up to the vetting process on an episode of CSI: Miami, Illeana and her Canadian Cop Cronies discover who the real killer is and what his Modus Operandi adds up to. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the killer's Mommy, Gena Rowlands' Mrs. Asher shows up and tells the Canadian Bacon anything and everything there is to know about the bad guy... Except what the hell he looks like.
See, Asher, the Killer, doesn't just kill, he kills, and then assumes the identity of his victims while he looks for the next one. Get it? He's "Taking Lives"! Therefore, because the Killer can be anyone, everyone is a suspect. It could be the very French cop Oliver Martinez, or maybe the extra French chief Jean-Hugues Anglade, or it could be Kiefer Sutherland's menacing itinerant Hart, or, maybe the Killer's mom is dressing up like a man? Or... Or... Are you riveted yet? Well, maybe if you slept through the first half of the film... and after the comparitively interesting opening, you might as well.
But wake up for Angelina's Nude Scene. And to think there are Atheists in the world! Damn! Naturally, Angelina's not just a pretty face, and an incredibly perfect, shapely body from head to toe (I'm even attracted to her shoulders)... no, the woman can act! Unfortunately, she's acting out a script that feels about as complete as a rummage sale puzzle. The writing is sloppy and the script comes off as really quite silly. Hawke, in particular, is clearly begging for an Oscar Nomination and tries to make every line count. However he's really, honestly, fairly terrible here, coming off as a consummate wannabe. Jolie actually seems embarrassed as she pierces her way through page after page of plodding script, all leading up to a ridiculous ending that Stevie Wonder would see coming a mile away.
Still, I'll watch anything with Jolie in it, and clearly she and her agent were hoping that someone out there felt the same way. After such high-profile flops like Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Beyond Borders and Life or Something Like It it's clear that some vehicle was needed as a stop-gap to remind audiences she was still here. Why this thing was chosen, Laura Croft only knows. Hell, if nothing else, at least this movie boldly answers the question "What about the CANADIAN serial killers?" Ask and ye shall receive.
Two Stars out of Five for Taking Lives, the poorly written, whackily acted snoozer that manages to feature one fantastic actress. And she gets Topless to Boot! The whole thing feels sadly like a lame made-for-cable movie of the week... which is especially odd because Jolie's made for Cable movies were... actually pretty good (see Gia). Ah well! Until the Box Office Receipts from Alexander and Sky Captain cause Sweet Angelina to try her hand at a quick-and-sexy appearance in Psycho V, I'll see you in the next reel! (Hell, I'd even watch that.)