Taking Lives

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If you want further evidence that Hollywood is an absurd, illogical place, look at, but do not attempt to touch, Angelina Jolie. She has appeared in 20 films now, 19 of which have been average or worse. (“Girl, Interrupted” is the lone stand-out, and it’s too depressing to watch again.) Only four of her films have been profitable, which means she’s not being cast for her box-office draw, either.

So if her movies are bad and they don’t make money, why IS she being cast? I’m thinking it’s either her lips or her breasts. Producers are hoping they’ll find a film that people will go see just because they want to look at HER, regardless of what she’s doing.

Well, in “Taking Lives,” what she’s doing is engaging in car chases and hunting down clues and having smutty, torrid romances, all the things you expect a detective to do in a suspense-thriller about a serial killer. (As you know from watching movies, serial killers make up approximately 90 percent of the criminal population.)

Jolie plays Illeana Scott, an FBI profiler who likes to lie down where the bodies were found to get a feel for the crime, even if the bodies were found in a shallow grave. (As always with Jolie, it’s hard to know which creepy behavior is hers and which is the character’s.) Despite being hot and fond of form-fitting T-shirts, she has no social life, instead spending her dinners eating alone and staring at crime-scene photos. (Again, reality and fiction blend.)

She is called in by Montreal police to help them find a serial killer whose modus operandi appears to be killing men and taking over their identities. One French-Canadian cop, Leclair (Tcheky Karyo), is glad to have Illeana aboard. Another one, Paquette (Olivier Martinez), does not like her, for reasons that are not explained. I would say maybe Olivier Martinez just doesn’t like Angelina Jolie, but maybe I would be taking the art-imitates-life thing too far.

Anyway, they have two people with vital information. One is Mrs. Asher (Gena Rowlands), who reports recently seeing her son in a crowd despite her son having been killed years ago. It is theorized that this son of hers, Martin, is the killer, that he faked his own death as a teen, assumed the identity of the boy who ACTUALLY died, and proceeded from there.

The other informant is Costa (Ethan Hawke), an artist who witnessed the killer performing one of his deeds, interrupted him in the act, and is now assumed to be next on the killer’s list, since murderers hate being interrupted almost as much as they hate witnesses. He is loath to participate in any kind of trap for the bad guy — “The bait always dies,” he observes, indicating at least SOMEONE here has watched these kinds of movies before — but he has the hots for Illeana, so he hangs around.

Written by Jon Bokenkamp and directed by D.J. Caruso (“The Salton Sea”), the film handles itself well enough for its first 60 minutes or so. An early sequence cleverly toys with our expectations of who the psycho is, and the movie boasts a few good “jump” moments, if that’s your thing.

But once the killer is identified, it all goes downhill but fast. The film rambles on for another 30 minutes when it ought to be wrapping itself up in 10 or 15, and it all culminates in a final showdown so ludicrous that if I explained it to you in detail, you would laugh and call me a liar, for surely no film produced by thinking, rational adult humans would attempt to pull off such an absurd finale. And yet there it is, in all its far-fetched, illogical glory, a silly cap on a mediocre movie, and Angelina Jolie’s streak continues unbroken.

C- (1 hr., 43 min.; R, a smattering of harsh profanity, some violence and graphic images, one scene of nudity and strong sexuality.)

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