Taking Lives

2004, Movie, R, 103 mins

Review

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Very loosely adapted from Michael Pye's novel of the same name, this multiple-twist thriller gets off to a fine, creepy start but eventually becomes too preposterous for its own good. A handsome woman of a certain age (Gena Rowlands) gets off a Montreal ferry and tells the nearest policeman that she has just seen her son, who had supposedly been killed by a truck nearly 20 years earlier. Her son, the formidable Mrs. Asher continues, was a disturbed teenager and is no doubt now a very dangerous man. Simultaneously, a mangled corpse is unearthed at a construction site and art dealer John Costa (Ethan Hawke) interrupts a deadly assault. Although the victim dies, Costa produces a sketch of the assailant. Inspector Leclair (Tcheky Karyo), who's supervising the investigation, infuriates subordinates Paquette (Olivier Martinez) and Duval (Jean-Hughes Anglade) by requesting the assistance of American FBI agent Ileana Scott (Angelina Jolie). Scott, a cum laude graduate of the spooky intuition school of criminal profiling, confirms their suspicion that the two crimes are linked, and further deduces that they're only the most recent in a decades-long string of murders by a killer who slips into the lives of his victims. The investigation swiftly comes to focus on Martin Asher, and Scott believes that their best chance of catching him before he disappears again into a skein of stolen lives is to use Costa as bait. Unfortunately, her attraction to Costa compromises her judgment and the investigation bogs down in a small school of wriggling red herrings. It goes without saying that the words "it's over" are spoken far too early in the proceedings to mean any such thing. Where Pye's novel was a meditation on identity couched as a cat-and-mouse game between a sociopath and a pursuer who has no idea what manner of monster he's dealing with, Jon Bokenkamp's adaptation is a conventional serial-killer picture in which the twists are consistently surprising because they don't make much sense. And Agent Scott is a men's magazine fantasy of a tough, smart woman; the drape of her t-shirts is far more carefully imagined than the workings of her mind, resulting in her doing some phenomenally stupid things but looking terrific doing them. Director D.J. Caruso's visual flair helps keep the film engaging even as the story begins to strangle on its own twists. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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