First there was the Tomb Raider franchise then Beyond Borders and now Angelina Jolie adds Taking Lives as another dud to a rather unflattering career of wrong choices.
If it was just one bad film, Jolie could be forgiven. But since winning an Academy Award in 1999, she insists on starring in films that are poorly written and a complete waste of what once was good talent.
Taking Lives is flawed because its premise is heavily influenced by other suspense thrillers and the supposed twist is completely predictable. The film plays like a CitiBank identity theft commercial –someone is killing people and then assuming their lives.
Jolie and Ethan Hawke give their underdeveloped characters some life but that can’t help Taking Lives. The film almost literally rips its “original” idea from every cop drama and thriller of the last five years.
FBI profiler Illena Scott (Jolie) is called to Montreal to help solve a series of strange murders believed to be linked to one man, Martin Ashner. But Illena isn’t the typical profiler, instead of using facts, she relies on her intuition to catch killers.
Martin, who apparently faked his own death in the ’80s, is now bent on finding a new life. The Canadian police captain, Lee Claire (Tcheky Karyo), and detectives Paquette (Oliver Martinez) and Duval (Jean-Hugues Anglade) are all supporting Illena in her effort to find the elusive killer.
The murderer’s identity is discovered after the man’s mother (Gena Rowlands) runs into her son. A tough childhood with a loveless mother and becoming a witness in the death of his twin brother apparently led Martin to his life of crime.
James Costa (Hawke) is the only person who can help Illena track down Martin before he strikes again. James witnessed one of the murders and saw the man who did it. Illena believes that James might be next on the killer’s list and tries to trap him.
Jolie gives a notable performance showing signs that she just might be on the track to recovery, but there is only so much depth she can give to a shallow character.
Supporting roles from Hawke, Martinez and Kiefer Sutherland are good, but if the main character is poorly written then the supporting ones are obviously even worse. Hawke delivers, but his character is uninteresting. Martinez is underused — with limited screen time, there’s not much time for the audience to become acquainted with his character. Sutherland does well with what he’s been handed and shines in his few moments onscreen.
Taking Lives is not a horrible film, the premise has just been overdone. How many times can studio execs and filmmakers expect audiences to watch an old premise with a new cast? The same, supposedly surprising situations, present themselves and the characters are just caricatures of those that came before them. The film offers nothing more than a slightly modified version of other such flicks. The opening credits are nearly identical to that of David Fincher’s Se7en. The choice of dark, murky look to the film harkens back to Se7en with a handful of gruesome murders.
The premise of the movie echoes back to Se7en with select scenes straight from The Talented Mr. Ripley and, yes, even Sandra Bullock’s Murder by Numbers. Instead of taking risk to engage the audience, Taking Lives plays it safe by being a carbon copy of its predecessors.
With Taking Lives out of her system, maybe Jolie will try to return to movies with more substance that aren’t based on mediocre video game series. At one point, she was the next big thing, but an almost endless choice of bad films doesn’t deliver the promise from her roles in Girl, Interrupted and Gia.