Taking Lives (5/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

Special FBI Agent Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie), a profiler, is called into a Montreal homicide to help track down what they think is a serial killer. She convinces a witness to the latest crime, fledgling artist James Costa (Ethan Hawke), to set himself up as a decoy to try to lure the killer out into the open.

Where this movie falls apart, other than a ridiculous Hollywood ending, is that I have more chemistry with my tennis shoes than Jolie and Hawke generate with each other. The love scene between Jolie and Hawke might be the least involving ever filmed, even though Jolie bares her breasts and Hawke makes some intimate touches.

Hawke is monumentally miscast in this role. He was OK in Training Day (2001), but that was a role that really didn’t require much depth, and that’s what Hawke is out of here. His character requires far greater range than Hawke is able to give and it ruins the movie, because the premise is based on the attraction between Scott and Costa. When that fails, the movie fails, despite the story.

Scott must be the most poorly trained agent in the history of the FBI. I know a real FBI agent who is so beautiful she makes Jolie look like Aunt Maude in comparison. She’s smart and shrewd and capable, and would never, in a million years, act as vulnerably or as ineptly as Scott.

The ending is so contrived (with the exception of one scene that will shock any audience, as it did mine) that it’s hard to believe intelligent filmmakers could foist it on the audience. If you shell out your good dough to see this, remember while watching the final 20 minutes that Scott is supposed to be a highly trained FBI agent. The way she performs simply lacks credibility.

On the plus side is Olivier Martinez, perhaps best known in the United States as Diane Lane’s lover in Unfaithful (2002). Here he plays Paquette, a Montreal policeman who feels threatened by Scott. Unfortunately, he’s too little seen. The film would have been much better had Martinez and Hawke switched roles. The one-dimensional role of Paquette would have been right up Hawke’s alley. I’d love to have seen Martinez duplicate the chemistry he and Lane had, with Jolie. THAT would have made this a movie to be seen, although, after watching this, I’m not convinced Jolie could have replicated Lane’s sexual tension.

Alas, we’re stuck with Hawke in the role, which reduces this to a mediocre film that, along with several other whodunits recently, raises the question of whether there’s anybody in Hollywood who can properly cast and make a whodunit as well as they did in the old days. That said, if you have low standards, you might find Taking Lives mildly entertaining.

March 15, 2004

The End