crime, movie, movie review, mystery, thriller

December 27th, 2017 Movie – Taking Lives (2004)

taking lives

The year is almost over and I am finishing things with a new letter. Now when it comes to this movie, this one kind of falls into a category that some other movies fell into at the beginning of the century; that being movies which used Angelina Jolie as their main marketing ploy. I understand the reasoning, as most of these movies are geared towards the male audience and she is one of the more attractive females in Hollywood. Still, the tactic can only get people to consider the movie but the actual movie itself has to do it’s job in keeping the audience interested. Let’s see if that pans out with today’s movie, Taking Lives.

The plot: In St. Jovite, Canada in 1983, a teenager named Martin Asher buys a bus ticket out of town and ends up meeting another teenage drifter named Matt Soulsby. When the bus breaks down, Matt rents a car and he and Matt continue driving down the road, with Matt telling Martin why he is on the road. When the car gets a flat tire, Matt goes to change it but Martin comments on them being the same height and when Matt looks up in confusion, Martin kicks Matt into the path of an oncoming car. The car hits Matt and ends up wrecking, killing the driver, and Martin approaches Matt, who is barely alive, and proceeds to bash in his head with a rock before grabbing Matt’s belongings and walking away through the fields. 19 years later, in Montreal, a construction crew is doing some excavating on a site when they unearth a human body that was buried there. At the same time, a woman hurriedly locates a police officer and explains that she saw her son, who had been dead for 19 years. The woman is taken to the police station and she gives her statement, saying that her son is dangerous but she knows it was him. The Montreal police take her statement but are more concerned with capturing a serial killer that has been in the area. Chief Inspector Hugo Leclair calls in FBI profiler Illeana Scott to assist with the case, introducing her to detectives Joseph Paquette and Emil Duval, though Paquette is not happy with her being there. When another murder occurs, Illeana is taken to the station where James Costa, a witness to the crime, is describing what he saw. As James works on sketching a profile of the man he saw, Illeana questions him about what he saw. The police get a hit on James’ sketch and head to the suspect’s apartment, where Illeana discovers a body chained up in the rafters. Paquette gets an ID on the victim and Illeana says not to mention anything to the press, as she hopes the killer will get upset over the lack of media coverage and make a mistake. That night, Illeana is at a bar close to James’ apartment and speaks with him when he comes in. The next day, Illeana goes to speak with Rebecca Asher about her son and while there, learns that Rebecca has two sons but one of them had died and Rebecca feels that Martin killed his brother. As Illeana continues to search the house, she finds a hidden room where Martin was kept as a child but as she looks around, she is attacked by an unknown assailant, who manages to escape. As she is relaxing in a bath, Illeana gets a call from Duval about a break-in at James’ studio and as she is looking at the file, notices something about the victims. She then explains her theory to the police that the killer is Martin, who is stealing the victim’s identities and living their lives until he finds someone with a better life for him and she believes James is the Martin’s next target. They decide to fit James with a wire and try to use him as bait to lure out Martin but nothing happens and James refuses to cooperate further as he fears for his own life. Illeana finds herself being drawn closer to James and she wants to leave, telling Leclair that they have a witness and a working profile so there is no need for her to be there but Leclair convinces her to stay until they catch Martin. That night, James holds an exhibit for his paintings and while there, he sees a man staring at him. James catches Illeana’s eye and says that the man is the killer and Illeana and Paquette give chase when he runs but they end up losing him in the festival crowd that is on the streets. The next day, they go to place James into witness protection but as Duval is packing James’ things into the car, the killer appears in James’ apartment and begins attacking him, saying that James has something he wants. James tries to get away and grab a gun but the killer knocks the gun away but James is able to yell for help, sending Duval rushing back inside the apartment. Meanwhile, Illeana arrives at the apartment to say goodbye to James when she hears gunshots coming from the apartment. When she gets there, she sees Duval lying dead on the ground but no sign of James or the assailant. Hearing James yelling for help outside, she sees James being held at gunpoint and being forced to drive away and so she gets into her car and gives chase. James eventually crashes his car into a median, which sends the attacker crashing through the windshield. James crawls out and quickly grabs the gun and begins wildly firing it into the car in the hopes of killing his attacker but his shots end up catching the car on fire just as Illeana gets there and she quickly pushes him to safety so he can avoid the blast. James is taken to the hospital to get his injuries taken care of and afterwards, he heads to Illeana’s hotel room, where the two give in to their mutual attraction and end up having sex. The next morning, Illeana wakes up to find herself and James covered in blood and at first she thinks he is dead but when he rouses, they discover that his stitches had popped. Illeana takes James to the hospital to get his stitches redone and learns that Rebecca is there to identify the body so she heads down to the morgue to meet Leclair and Paquette. Rebecca looks at the body but doesn’t say that it is Martin and walks away. Illeana chases after her but is unable to catch Rebecca before she gets on the elevator and the door closes. Inside the elevator, Rebecca hears someone say “Hello, Mother” and she turns to find James in the elevator with her. Rebecca recognizes him as Martin and speaks with him, saying she isn’t afraid of him but James moves towards her and kills her. Illeana had raced down the stairs to catch Rebecca as she leaves but when the elevator doors open, she sees James ripping Rebecca’s head off and realizes that he is Martin. She is able to tell Leclair and Paquette about James before she faints but they are unable to stop him from escaping. The police search James’ studio and Paquette yells at Leclair over Illeana’s sleeping with James and slaps Illeana in his anger. Meanwhile, Martin heads to the train station and picks out his next victim, throwing him off the train as it is moving. Martin then calls Illeana and speaks with her, telling her that she didn’t fall in love with James Costa but instead, fell in love with Martin Asher. The police discover he bought a train ticket and head out to try and catch him when he reaches the station while Illeana heads back to her hotel and proceeds to cleanse herself to the point of rubbing her skin raw in an act of disgust over her actions. Illeana is fired from the FBI for her actions and she ends up moving to Carlisle, PA, where seven months have passed and she is shown to be heavily pregnant. After running some errands, she returns home and puts her things away but as she goes to pull her tea kettle off of the stove, she finds Martin in her house. She goes for a gun she had hidden only to find that Martin had found all of the guns she had hidden throughout the house and taken them. Martin talks with her some but then attacks her when she says the babies are not his, but James Costa’s. Illeana grabs a pair of scissors to try and attack Martin with but Martin grabs her and then stabs her in the stomach with the scissors. Illeana is shocked that he did that but then grabs the scissors and stabs Martin in the chest with them. As he drops to his knees in shock, Illeana explains that everything he saw was what she wanted him to see, then removes the prosthetic stomach she was wearing to simulate being pregnant. As Martin drops dead onto the floor, Illeana calls Leclair and tells him that it is over.

Taking Lives was panned by the critics, holding a 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A stylish, but predictable thriller where the only thrills are offered by the sensuous Angelina Jolie.” Despite having third billing in the movie, Kiefer Sutherland only had a total of 17 lines and 3 minutes of screen time. The movie was barely a hit at the box office, earning $65.4 million off of a $45 million budget.

This was an ok thriller but it was too slow paced to really be effective. The acting was good, with Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke doing good jobs in their roles of Illeana and Martin respectively. The story was actually pretty interesting but, as I said earlier, the slow pacing actually kind of killed some of the tension that it had going for it. I also felt that the ending was about as cliched and predictable as you could expect it to be. The dark lighting and tones of the movie worked well together and did their job in helping to carry the story. It is predictable but still a decent movie to kill some time with.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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crime, movie, movie review, thriller

July 22nd, 2017 Movie – The Sentinel (2006)

the sentinel 2006

I am going to be completely honest with you in regards to this movie. The only reason I watched this movie the first time was because I wanted to see if Kiefer Sutherland would be able to play this role and not slip into “Jack Bauer” mode. After all, this was right at the height of the 24 phenomenon, and Kiefer decides to do a movie playing a Secret Service Agent. It really isn’t that far of a stretch to imagine it happening. Anyways, I enjoyed the movie when I first watched it so while strolling through Blockbuster during their dying days (yes, I did that a lot and my wallet cried every time) I decided to pick up one of their copies as a change of pace from my usual fare. So now I am going to sit back and enjoy today’s movie, The Sentinel (2006).

The plot: After waking from a dream of his helping save President Ronald Reagan, Secret Service Agent Pete Garrison heads to the White House for his shift. Inside the White House, he runs into his friend and fellow agent Charlie Merriweather, who asks to speak with him later. After getting briefed on upcoming assignments, Garrison takes up his position as First Lady Sarah Ballentine and escorts her to the car, where she is going with the President to speak at a local school. As they head to the school, it is revealed that the President and First Lady are having marriage problems, and she tells him she plans on going to the beach house later that day. Meanwhile, Jill Marin arrives at the P.I.D. (Protective Intelligence Division) and reports to David Breckinridge, who chastises her for being late and then asks why she requested being assigned to him. When she tells him that Garrison said he was the best, he shows some displeasure at the mention of Garrison’s name but chooses not to say anything. Elsewhere, Charlie Merriweather is returning home when he is shot and killed by an unknown assailant. When he gets word of what happened, Breckenridge and Marin head to Charlie’s house to check the scene, which the DC police believe is a simple mugging gone bad, but Breckinridge disagrees and believes he was assassinated. At the beach house, Garrison and the rest of the security detail finish checking the house and when Garrison ends up alone with the First Lady, it is revealed that they are having an affair. Garrison is interrupted by someone calling him on the radio and when he heads downstairs, he finds another agent there who tells him about Charlie’s death. Breckinridge is speaking with Charlie’s wife on if he might have told her anything that could have gotten him killed and she tells him he was upset about some gossip about Garrison possibly having an affair with someone from work, which upsets Breckinridge. As Breckinridge leaves, he runs into Garrison and the two start arguing with each other but when Marin asks what the issue is between them, neither tells her. Later, Garrison is told that a former snitch of his, Walter Xavier, wants to talk to him and when he meets with him, Walter tells him that he believes Charlie’s death was linked to a plot to assassinate the president that he overhead. Garrison doesn’t believe it but Walter tells him that there is a mole in the Secret Service, then hands him a folder to prove his point before disappearing. The folder contains code words, call signs, and other info that indicate Walter was correct and steps are taken to increase the protection for the President, including flipping a coin to determine how the President travels to and from the White House. Meanwhile, Garrison receives pictures of him with Sarah just as Breckinridge shows up to ask him about Walter, and Garrison quickly hides the pictures and blackmail note. When he gets a chance, he goes to see Sarah to tell her about the pictures and blackmail, apologizing for putting her in this position. All Secret Service Agents are ordered to take a polygraph test and Garrison takes his before heading out to meet with the blackmailer at a hotel. While waiting outside, Garrison receives a call to head to a coffee shop and he waits there but when nobody shows up, he leaves. Garrison notices he is being followed and quickly evades his tail, only to begin following him but ends up being stopped by the FBI, who thought he was working with the cartel. Garrison accompanies President Ballentine and Sarah to Camp David and on the helicopter flight there, Ballentine asks Garrison if they can talk about the assassination threat and possible mole while at the camp. Walter contacts Garrison and tells him where to meet to deliver his money and tells him to come alone but Garrison’s superior assigns another agent to accompany him, while Breckinridge and Marin leave there office to serve as back up. When he gets to the mall, Garrison heads to his meeting with Walter but Walter sees the other agent and bolts. Meanwhile, the agent warns Garrison of a possible attacker but is shot and killed, ten the attacker tries to shoot Garrison, while taking a hostage to keep Garrison from shooting back. When Breckinridge and Marin arrive, they try to locate the assassin but he changes clothes in a shop and manages to get away. Meanwhile, Marine 1 is shot down by a surface-to-air missile but, due to the coin toss, the President and First Lady were not on board. The assassin meets with the other members of his group as the news about Marine 1 breaks and the group’s leader calls the mole and yells at him for failing to ensure the President would be on the helicopter. Garrison returns home only to have Breckinridge, Marin, and several other agents show up and Breckinridge tells Garrison he is being investigated for treason. Breckinridge tells him the evidence against him but Garrison thinks that his judgement is clouded because he believed that Garrison had an affair with his wife, causing the break-up of his marriage. When Breckinridge steps outside to meet with the director, Garrison manages to escape custody, taking an agent’s radio and gun as he does so. Using the radio, Garrison manages to locate where Sarah is and sneaks by the Secret Service guarding her in order to secretly meet with her and tell her he is being framed. Garrison then works on trying to track down Walter, eventually finding where he is hiding but when he gets there, Walter is already dead. Breckinridge and Marin arrive with some other Secret Service Agents and Garrison is forced to make a run for it, with Breckinridge chasing after him. Breckinridge manages to get the drop on Garrison and shoots him in the vest, but when Garrison tells him to shoot him in the head, he can’t bring himself to do it and allows Garrison to escape. Garrison goes to Charlie’s house to see if he can find anything in Charlie’s files and his widow mentions the car that is watching the house. When the car leaves, Garrison follows it and locates the assassins’ headquarters, killing the assassin that is inside but the other two members overhear it on the phone and head back. Garrison searches the place and finds several passports, weapons, and credentials for the G8 summit and calls Jill to let her know about it but when Breckinridge and the others get there, the body, passports, and credentials are gone. After Garrison calls Sarah and leaves her a goodbye message, she contacts Breckinridge and tells him about the affair and blackmail. Garrison makes his way to Toronto and runs the fingerprints he collected from the dead assassin and sends them to Marin to find out who he is but as he is waiting, Breckinridge appears. Garrison is ready to defend himself but Breckinridge says the First Lady explained everything and he knows he is being framed. As they identify the assassin, they try to figure out who the mole is and realize that Senior Agent William Montrose didn’t take the polygraph. As they head to the G8 Summit, they contact Marin and have her tell the First Lady that Montrose is the mole. When they get there, the Secret Service wont let them in and threaten to shoot Garrison, though Breckinridge tries to convince them he is on their side, when the radios suddenly go out. Breckinridge and Garrison head inside and during the commotion of their entering, Montrose escorts the President off the podium. Sarah gives to code word for the all clear and Garrison leads everyone after Montrose and the President. Meanwhile, the assassins, disguised as members of the RCMP, begin shooting at him and Montrose is conflicted on what to do and eventually decides to get the President to safety, coming clean about his being the mole. Montrose ends up being killed and Garrison is shot but they manage to kill the assassins and begin escorting the President to the waiting cars. As he is being loaded into a car, the leader of the assassins, disguised as a cop, approaches to try and kill him but when the First Lady exits her car, he grabs her as a shield but Garrison manages to shoot and kill him. The President is driven to safety as Sarah goes to check on Garrison, with Marin guarding her while Breckinridge calls for another car to get her out of there. Some time later, Garrison is forced to retire early due to the affair and says goodbye to his friends. As he leaves the White House, Breckinridge and Marin say goodbye and Garrison invites Breckinridge to dinner to repair their friendship but he declines as he is having dinner with his ex-wife to try and renew their marriage. Garrison walks takes one last look at the White House before walking away, unaware that Sarah was watching him leave from her office window.

The Sentinel (2006) met with mostly negative reviews with the critics, holding a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “The Sentinel¬†starts off well enough but quickly wears thin with too many plot holes and conventional action sequences.” Gerald A. Cavis, a retired Secret Service Agent who served as a consultant on the film, said that Eva Longoria was the best shot among the principal actors when they did there “shooting school” with live ammunition, hitting every target from 30 yards away. The movie was a mild success at the box office, earning $78.1 million off of a $60 million budget.

This won’t win any Academy Awards, but this is a pretty decent political thriller that gives you almost everything you could ask for in a drama. The acting was good, with Michael Douglas (Garrison), Kiefer Sutherland (Breckinridge), Eva Longoria (Marin) and Kim Basinger (Sarah) all doing good jobs in their roles, though I will admit that Kiefer did go a little Jack Bauer on Garrison at his home. ¬†The story was pretty good and felt a lot more realistic than some other movies at the time, though I will say that the ending did feel a little crowded, with a lot going on all within the last 15 minutes. The tension and drama in the movie was great, especially the tension between Garrison and Breckinridge, and how Marin, who respected both of them, found herself caught in the middle of the two men. A good mix of drama and excitement that can make for some fun movie watching.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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