Taking Lives

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“Another great concept is let down by depressingly obvious scripting.”

Rarely has a film started so promisingly, and gone so consistently downhill. The start is fabulous, with one of the most shocking moments I’ve seen…though if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll have had it spoiled. But regardless, the first time we meet FBI profiler Illeana Scott (Jolie), on special assignment to Montreal, she’s lying in a grave. She is hard as nails, and takes absolutely no crap from anyone: her local friend, Captain Leclair (Karyo) hardly needs to bother protecting her, despite the nicely-handled cross-border tension. The case is that of a serial killer who, as the title suggests, inhabits the lives of his victims: the crack comes when his mother (Rowlands), believing him dead for two decades, spots him in Montreal by chance. However, the only other person to have seen the suspect is art-gallery owner James Costa (Hawke), but Scott starts finding her emotions getting in the way of her work…

Which is where the film loses its way, deflating like a leaky balloon. We are forced to watch the inevitable sexual tension between these two characters; seeing Scott go about her business would be infinitely less cliched and predictable. There is a twist that is so obvious you’d need to be unconscious not to see it coming – though I’d forgive you for falling asleep during the aforementioned sexual tension – and a final act that appears to have been taken from a bad 80’s slasher movie. These failings merely open the door for you to stare more closely at the plot, and you realise large chunks of it are on wobbly ground. For example, Scott deduces from a draft that a bookcase must conceal a hidden door: er, why not simply an A/C vent? Part Se7en, part Silence of the Lambs, this comes over as taking the less effective elements from each film, leaving the potential of a female Sherlock Holmes sadly under-realised.

Dir: D.J. Caruso
Stars: Angelina Jolie, Tchéky Karyo, Ethan Hawke, Gena Rowlands

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