Taking Lives

By Mark Ramsey | 2004/03/21

This is the worst movie I’ve seen in days.

Taking Lives is a dark and dreary would-be thriller that may have you taking your own life before the final frame.

Yeah, folks die during the course of this movie, but things are pretty lifeless from the start: The characters don’t so much arc as they careen violently to the ground.

Judging by the poster for Taking Lives the real stars of this movie are Angelina Jolie’s lips – the upper leading one and the lower best supporting one. Fortunately, these lips aren’t guilty of a crime – unless flamboyant disregard for proportionality is illegal.


Taking Lives is set in Montreal, where French and English collide like Angelina’s career collides with a tree.

See if this sounds familiar:

There’s a serial killer on the loose!

And the cops need help!

So they call in Angelina Jolie.

Why? Because whether you have an unsolved murder or the den needs painting, if you need help, who wouldn’t call Angelina Jolie.

And so Angie goes to Montreal.

“Normally,” says one cop, “finding lips that big in Montreal, means visiting the local boulangerie and placing two loaves of French bread under your nose.”

Evidently reconfigured as the new Ashley Judd, Angie is a crack FBI profiler who, like the CBS prime-time viewing audience, is obsessed with forensics. There she is, reclining in the hole where a body was just exhumed, looking radiant, as porcelain-perfect as a J C Penney mannequin.

As countless movies have taught us, serial killers collect mementos of their crimes: They tie straws into little people-shapes, they store urinal filters in the bathtub, they stow bodies in the ceiling, they collect tribal knives, they wear their loved one’s blood around their neck, they canoodle with their brother at awards shows…

Hey, wait a minute!

Ethan Hawke presumably witnesses the killer in action (duh, can you see where this is going?). Ethan waits for his “investor” – who may be the killer – in a nightclub, when he sees a napkin on the bar that says “Meet me in the men’s room.” Hmm. Yes, another one of those men’s room meetings with investors – let’s hope somebody’s investing in a condom.

Wait, is Angelina falling for Ethan? “I might be having a reaction to my witness that would cloud my judgment,” she says. Trust me, Angie, your judgment’s been sleeping with the fishes since 1999. You could have picked a better movie if you had wandered into a wedding video in Pasadena.


After a few moments of forensic flirtation, Angie and Ethan land in bed, and by “bed” I mean up against the wall of her hotel room. Look, if I want to watch Angelina Jolie have an orgasm, I’ll consult my vivid imagination.

Thanks to Ethan’s alleged eye-witness description, a sketch of the presumed killer is prepared, and even people who have never seen Keifer Sutherland know this is the image of Keifer Sutherland. Never ones to miss a clue, the Canadian cops put out an all-points-bulletin for Donald Sutherland circa 1979.

The chase is on! Angie swings into action, zooming after the alleged perp down the wrong side of the highway – and doing it with the added burden of stylish sunglasses on a gloomy day.

Olivier Martinez, Diane Lane’s boy-toy from Unfaithful, proves he can’t act with clothes on any better than he could act with clothes off. Olivier doesn’t deliver dialogue so much as physical postures with words attached. Not that you can understand the words: “Vowel-vowel-vowel-vowel-vowel-BULLSHEET!” Together, Olivier and Angelina are too beautiful for the same planet, let alone the same room.

This is a case of a murderer who kills folks then assumes their lives and identities. In other words, the killer is out to create an outcome both familiar and derivative. Likewise, the filmmakers have dredged a familiar harbor and, predictably, come up with a derivative stiff.

I can only hope against hope that this movie is Hollywood’s final copycat killing. We have our Silence of the Lambs. Now how about some silence from the hams?

Photos Copyright ©2004 Warner Bros. Pictures


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