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By Stina Chyn | March 19, 2004

After watching “Taking Lives” (D.J. Caruso), I felt as if one of my lives had been taken. Caruso’s film is a suspense-thriller about a maladjusted young man who kills other males and assumes their solitary but way cooler identities. FBI Profiler Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie) is called in to help Montreal’s Detective Paquette (Olivier Martinez) and Captain LeClaire (Tcheky Karyo) with a case that is linked to this killer. The dialogue is very witty, the actors—for the most part—deliver fine performances, and the friction between Canadian and American law enforcement agencies is handled in a refreshing, sub-textual manner.

Based on a novel by Michael Pye, “Taking Lives” has a lot going for it, but two-thirds of the way through, things fall apart. The film’s weaknesses are directly tied to the narrative. To avoid revealing any details concerning the plot twists, I’ll just say that either Ethan Hawke, who plays a painter named James Costa, was miscast or the film’s creative team stopped trying to make particular story elements believable. Kiefer Sutherland, the prime suspect, and his contribution to the film, could be considered a cameo. Gena Rowlands, the killer’s mother, needs to be “hiding” more from the police, or at the very least her impact on the plot should be more significant. She serves her purpose in getting Agent Scott to connect specific dots, but because she’s the mother that didn’t do a fabulous job raising her son, there needs to be a lot more darkness to her humanity.

As indicated by his directing resume, which includes the TV shows “The Shield,” “Smallville,” and “Dark Angel,” Caruso is a competent director. He appears to have a preoccupation with extreme close-ups, but he knows how to create and enhance dramatic tension and emotional undertones by framing his characters in a certain way. Sadly, something went awry during the conception and execution of the film’s final narrative arc. Despite its great potential to be everything the trailers suggest, don’t waste your time on “Taking Lives” unless you’ve got soft spot for Angelina Jolie because she looks amazing in this one.
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