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