Taking Lives (2004)
Director: DJ Caruso
In Montreal, Canada, a serial killer murders folks and adopts their identity. Why? Because his momma didn’t play with him when he was young or some crud like that…BUGH! The local 5.0 are in over their heads as to the elusive nutso, so U.S. Special Agent Illeana (Jolie) is sent in to crack the case armed with her sharp wits, her side-arm, her fat lips and her bouncy tits! The chase is on!
Based on a novel by Canadian author Michael Pye, Taking Lives’ prologue, truly had me by the collar in terms of staging, build-up and its sly way of establishing the killer’s morbid M.O. I was sure that I was in for something special after that whopper of an opening! I was dead wrong! Set and filmed mostly in Montreal/Canada, this flick once more confirmed the MONTREAL CURSE where every USA project shot in my fair city winds up sucking Lama raisin-nuts!
At the end of the autopsy, I gotta blame the silly-willy script for this one’s failure. I don’t know who TRULY wrote this screenplay (having learned with "They" that the credited screenwriter isn’t always to blame), maybe the producers got in there, maybe the screenplay got lost, found and rewritten by a drunk hobo, I don’t know or care. The bottom line is that the screenplay backing this bitch blew hard cocks with its biggest sin being that it shamefully never capitalized on its slick premise of a killer who changes identity like a relentless “shell crab”. I was fascinated with the themes at hand as well as their unlimited possibilities. Too bad the film was more interested in serving up tired clichés, mundane chase scenes, a predictable whodunit and "blah" drama as opposed to delving into its narrative’s more compelling ideas.
Throughout, the script hardly ever stopped insulting my intelligence and making a fool of itself. Let's see, we had the trivial bad moves made by the police in order to force the plot into a direction (hey Anglade...stop smoking, you've got somebody upstairs you’re supposed to keep an eye on, dumbass!) Then, there was the phony love story based in NOTHING which eventually made way for one of the most robotic sex scenes ever filmed! Shit. I’ve seen more chemistry between my right hand and toilet paper! As if that wasn’t enough, the zero dimension characters (why was Olivier pissed 24/7 again?), the utter waste of Kiefer Sutherland, the pathetic see-through red herrings, the oddball character choices (I always take off my shirt when I get stabbed with scissors…uh?), the plot holes, the lousy acting (easy Hawke…EASY!) and the tacked on, stupid-as-Hilton ending also surfaced to bitch slap me or crack me up.
Should I even go into the killer’s “reason” for being the way he is? No, I won’t…YES, I WILL! We got another “my mommy didn’t pay attention to me so now I kill people” type of murderer history. PLEAAAAAASE! That crud is so played out! My parents paid more attention to our pet hamster than me throughout my childhood, you don’t see me offing my neighbors and stealing their driver’s license today (well to be fair… I didn’t get caught yet). Enough with this craptastic motive! Let’s get creative, screenwriters of the world, and come up with something fresh already! I would rather NOT have any background info on a celluloid loony than ever having to hear this DRIVEL again.
On the slight bright side, Angelina Jolie’s performance was "on the ball" throughout with her being the most convincing player of the lot. Love her or hate her, nobody can deny that she has talent and that the camera simply adores her. The last good vibration I got off this mess was its razor photography coupled with its skillfully moody directing. I particularly grooved on the use of close ups to communicate Illeana’s perceptive nature. Very slick! Sadly, that was all she wrote for the good stuff!
All in all, "Taking Lives" was a good looking clunker. A film that so wanted to be up to SE7EN caliber (going as far as RIPPING OFF its opening credits) but due to its “Ashley Judd thriller of the month script”, failed miserably. Get ready for MUCHO unintentional laughter with this one (like the Martinez back hand slap…lol!), especially if you’re a native of Montreal. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen 3 French (from France) actors playing 3 French Quebecers. COME ON! At least try to have a Quebec accent! It’s akin to having British actors playing Americans without changing the accent. Take this life and shove it!!
We get a scissor stabbing, mucho after-the-fact bloodied up bodies and after-the-fact mangled up cadavers. We also get blood splashes and a nasty wound being stitched up in full close-up glory. The flick was messy enough.
Angelina Jolie (Illeana) did what she could. Her part was underwritten, but her performance gapped that by feeling genuine and grounded. Nice work, sweetie! Ethan Hawke (Costa) was on and off where, at times, he came across as an amateur overacting his way through a Community College workshop (or was he thinking of cheating on Uma again?) while at other times, he was decent. Kiefer Sutherland (Hart) showed up briefly to wave his hand in a kool way and cash a check. Gena Rowlands (Miss Asher), who is normally a good actress, was awful here. I didn’t buy her for a minute! Olivier Martinez (Paquette) played his David Mills look-alike wannabee part on one note: “angry”. On top of that, I could barely make out what he was saying half the time. I usually like the lad and to be fair, he wasn’t given much to play with here. Tcheky Karyo (Leclair) played it smart by doing his thing super low-key. He came out of this mess looking good. Jean Hughes Anglade (Duval) played a cop who smoked a lot. Didn’t he play the same role in "Maximum Risk"?
T & A
We get Angelina Jolie doing the bouncy boobs running gag and going the tit shot way. Thanks Angie! You rock! The ladies get a slim Ethan Hawke showing off his bony chest. Somebody shove a Big Mac down this man’s throat...he needs to gain some weight big-time!
DJ Caruso (who directed the underrated "The Salton Sea") went "all out" on a visual standpoint bathing the flick in high style, bleak atmosphere and tight shot composition. Too bad all the coating in the world couldn’t cover up the abysmal screenplay.
Phillip Glass is on a roll these days! He provided the score for the recently released "Secret Window" and did another stellar job here by tapping into the darkness of the content via his tracks. We also get “Bad” by U2 and some old school rock and roll.
What is film? A lie. A lie attempting to fool me into believing its basis in reality for a buck and half. If you’re going to lie to me, at least take some notes from my ex-girlfriend and do it right! "Taking Lives" couldn’t bullshit itself out of a pre-school class with its obvious ploys, ludicrous plot devices, manufactured relationships, vacuous characters, inane turns and an ending that had me laughing my ass off while hurling on the guy sitting in front of me. Go rent SE7EN instead. They should’ve called this one “WASTE OF TIME”.
The film was shot in Montreal and partly in Quebec. And no, the whole city doesn’t look like what the film portrayed, which was basically one street in Old Montreal (our European wannabee corner of town)
The hands rebuilding the skull in the film belong to local special effect dude Adrian Morot.
Quebec stars Julien Poulin ("Elvis Gratton") and Marie Jose Croze ("The Barbarian Invasions") have small roles here.