Directed by D J Caruso, starring Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Olivier Martinez, Jean-Hughes Anglade, Gena Rowlands and Kiefer Sutherland.
Following a quirky and imaginative opening showing a teenager's first murder, 'Taking Lives' thereafter trips up over the abundance of red herrings and dead bodies thrown about the plot. From the grainy opening credits we are jolted from the realm of the original into the well-trodden territory of serial killer thriller.
Adapted (very loosely) from the novel by Michael Pye, the story takes place in Canada where a body has been found. Meanwhile Mrs Asher (Gena Rowlands) goes to the police to tell them that she has just seen her long dead son. Obviously, the local detectives (Martinez and Anglade) can't deal with the gravity of the situation and an FBI agent is called in. Enter tough girl Quantico profiler Clarice Starling...oops I mean Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie) to show them how it's done.
And so the plot marches on, regardless of the fact that Canada is not part of the FBI territory of North America, there's not a mounted policeman in sight, the Montreal special branch officers speak with a ragged French drawl while no one else even bothers to assume even a vaguely Canadian accent. Perhaps the budget didn't stretch as far as a voice coach.
So to continue, Illeana quickly establishes that we are in fact dealing with a serial killer who apparently wants to be caught. She also realises that the killer is 'taking lives' and the identities of his victims like a hermit crab. So when a witness in the form of shy art dealer John Costa (Hawke) comes forward, the cops decide to use him as bait.
From evil mothers, favoured twins, hidden rooms, chase scenes through carnivals to green and ghoulish dead bodies, there's not a serial killer cliché left unturned. However, despite the unevenness of the plot, the first half of 'Taking Lives', while less than spectacular, is passable. This is mainly due to the sleek direction of Caruso and the performances of Hawke and Jolie. However, not even Angelina's acting skills or pillow-like attributes can keep this movie afloat.
Given the familiar terrain and string of clichés it's predictable fare, regardless of the fact that not much of it makes any sense. When Kiefer Sutherland is brought in as chief red herring you know the director is flailing in a sea of unfathomable plotlines. By the third act, the discerning viewer is left incredulous as Illeana - formerly the best profiler in the world – is turned into an emotional woman who is stripped of her title and sent to Pennsylvania in the depths of winter. But sadly, with one more twist in the tale, it doesn't end there.
If you're looking for originality in your serial killer movie, skip this and go see 'Monster' instead.