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Taking Lives
2004 - R - 102 Mins.
Director: D.J. Caruso
Producer: Mark Canton, Bernie Goldmann, David Heyman
Written By: Michael Pye, Jon Bokencamp
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland, Olivier Martinez
Review by: Joe Rickey

I can't believe you dumped Uma Thurman.
Angelina Jolie is kooky, there’s little point in disputing that. Her exploits with former squeeze Billy Bob Thornton are well documented. Also well documented are her trips to Cambodia as a UN representative and her adoption of a child from the aforementioned country. What seems to get lost in all of this is the fact that she has not had a hit film in a while. Not since ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ has she had a bonafide success. The second ‘Tomb Raider’ film failed to light up the box office and her last film, ‘Beyond Borders’ failed to even light up a single theatre; grossing less than ten million total at the box office. Realizing that she needs a hit badly and has had previous success in the “Hunt for a Serial Killer” genre (‘The Bone Collector’), Jolie makes her return with the thriller Taking Lives, costarring Ethan Hawke (‘Training Day’) and Kiefer Sutherland (‘Phone Booth’, TV series ‘24’). D.J. Caruso (‘The Salton Sea’) directs the film.

‘Taking Lives’ is, largely, a successful attempt at a detective thriller. What it is not successful at is rather minimal when one takes into consideration all it does right. One facet that ‘Taking Lives’ fails at is that it fails to get the viewer interested quickly. While the characters are set up okay, the film drags its feet during the opening. Caruso would have been in the right had he seen to cutting this portion of the film down and getting to the main gist of the story involving the hunt for a serial killer who has evaded the authorities by taking the identities of those he killed. The film also occasionally struggles with some improbabilities with regards to the script. I don’t want to give anything away but let me just say that not everything that occurs makes complete sense when one looks back on the events that have unfolded. Saying all this, ‘Taking Lives’ is still a better than average thriller.

One reason why the film works is that Caruso may have some problems with pacing at times, but once things get going they really get going. He sure knows how to craft intriguing low-key sequences along with breakneck action sequences such as a chase on-foot and a car crash. The film also benefits from top-notch production values and dark cinematography reminiscent of ‘Seven.’

In the lead role, Angelina Jolie lends some toughness yet a side of vulnerability to her character that works consistently. Ethan Hawke, while not given as strong material as Jolie, gives his role presence. The same could be said for Olivier Martinez. Last but not least, Kiefer Sutherland, yet again playing a psychotic individual, relishes the role and for good reason: other than Anthony Hopkins and his iconic Hannibal Lecter role, Sutherland is perhaps the best actor at playing a villain. Whether it is as a serial killer in this film or an unknown caller tormenting Colin Farrell in Phone Booth, Sutherland brings fear just by the use of his maniacal voice.

Overall, ‘Taking Lives” is a fun, entertaining thriller worth recommending.

Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

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