[Movie] @mgaft1, the review for movie Taking Lives (2004)

Somewhere in Golos or Steemit, I read a review of the movie “Taking Lives”

The author seems to have a favorable opinion about it and some responses to the review were favorable as well. This was enough trigger for me to read what media thought of the movie.

Media response, for example, the response of “Rotten Tomatoes” on the contrary was unfavorable. Ethan Hawke, who played the main villain of the movie, thought it was dumb and normally I would be inclined to trust him. I’ve seen Ethan Hawke in several decent movies. He is an intelligent person and a thoughtful actor. As for Angelina Jolie, who plays an FBI agent and the chief investigator unraveling this mysterious case, she is no doubt a beautiful woman, a Hollywood bombshell. Yet, I've never seen her playing any substantial role. She always played in flicks (like that one about a strong woman Lora Croft). This discrepancy in perception was enough to cause my interest in the movie and a desire to make my own judgement.

“Taking Lives” is set in Quebec and that was the first thing that puzzled me. One might say “why not?” Why not in Quebec? For all its worth, it could have been set in Australia like “Crocodile Dundee.” However, in “Crocodile Dundee” moving the action to Australia made sense as Paul Hogan took Linda Kozlowski to Australia, because, unlike in New York, in Australia, he knew how to defend her from the evil South American drug dealers.

In the current movie though, Ethan Hawke’s character Martin Asher could have taken lives in any American state like Indiana, Wyoming or Idaho, where the movie wouldn’t require policemen to speak French and run the subtitles across the screen. One might retort that the action described in the movie could have been based on the real events; the killer could indeed have been killing people in Montreal.

Indeed, but let’s say that the real killer’s grandfather was a WWII hero or suffered from diarrhea. Would that matter in any way to a movie? There could have been a million various details that were factual, but those that have been removed from the movie as irrelevant. Yet, it was set in Quebec.
The only explanation I found was that at the moment when both Canadian officers were talking smack about Illeana (Jolie’s character) in her presence, hoping that she doesn’t understand French, she surprised them with her perfect French while their English have really sucked. I think this was done in order to glorify Jolie’s character. She was supposed to be head and shoulder above the other officers. Otherwise,why couldn’t they solve the case themselves? However, without her in the movie, there wouldn’t be a movie. She was the main attraction, her love affair with the serial killer. That was that gimmick that was going to sell the movie.

Jolie’s character Illeana was supposed to be an FBI agent who uses non-standard, but effective methods. A viewer is exposed to one of those effective methods right from the moment of her introduction in the movie. She lays in the dug grave when two police officers meet her for the first time.

What was the consequence of her meditating inside the grave? She figured out that the criminal dug it to the exact height of the future victim, which meant he knew whom he was going to kill. Very well. Then why, in order to make this conclusion, she had to lay in the grave? It seems that any reasonable person could have made the same conclusion standing at its edge.
Similar goofs are sprinkled all over the place. For example, during the investigation, Illeana unexpectedly sits on the pavement, puts her hands on her temples preoccupied with seemingly intense thinking.


I can’t help but imagining how the director was telling Jolie “ok baby, try to look like you are thinking hard.” It reminds me the SNL episode devoted to the resurrection of John Snow in Game of Thrones when Davos and Melisandre both stared dramatically.

Here you can watch the entire skit.

During the interrogation of Martin Asher, Illeana makes a statement that he cannot be a sociopath, as he doesn’t display typical for a sociopath behavior.

Ok, Asher tricked her. That’s not yet the problem. The problem is that further, in the movie, when a viewer discovers that Asher actually is a sociopath, there is no follow up to Illeana’s faulty statement. If anything that young French Canadian officer that was always on her case, should have rubbed it in, but he didn’t. It was as if the director ran out of a budget.
Interestingly, further in a movie, all the “strangeness of methodology” disappears and Illeana behaves just like any other cup. As if the director thought that he has already made his point about Illeana to a viewer. Enough is enough.

During the scene when Illeana interrogates the mother of Asher, the operator first shows both of them from the distance, then Illeana’s eye so large that you can see pours on her skin, and then two canaries in the cage. What was that for? Was that a symbol of the fact that Asher had a twin brother, whom he killed?Then it was an extreme close up of the mother’s mouth and her nails. What was that all about?

For example in Pulp Fictions during the scene, where Sam Jackson shoots the students, Tarantino does show close up of Jules’ face. It is completely justified because at this moment Jules is trying to hype himself up for a shot and so he wouldn’t sound like a killer but like a fair judge.

While the close up in this movie, in my view, is completely unjustified.
Let’s now move to the bread and butter of the movie, to the sex scene. An on-screen chemistry between the actors is an important aspect in love scenes. In my opinion, it doesn’t exist between Hawke and Jolie. In their sex scene, before the first kiss, it took an astonishing minute and 14 seconds for sexual tension buildup. I counted, it was lasting from 1:15:35 to 1:16:49 of the movie.

It’s as if the director stood there with a stopwatch and counted “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, ok, now kiss!”

Further, in the sex scene, Asher behaves uncharacteristically violent: lifts Illeana and drops her on a table, breaking expensive glassware. Considering the cost of each piece of such glassware somewhere between $10 and $20, he made a damage of, at least, $500 and since he made this damage in a hotel, the restocking fee would have been even greater. Not sure what was he thinking about making this bill for Illeana, as in a movie he seems to barely making the ends meet. I think the director just decided to use a standard for an American movie scene of “passion” when people are so horny for each other that they can’t even pay attention to anything around them.

Unlike clumsy Hawke, Jolie feels very natural in the scene, as if she’s doing things like this every day. In fact, this perhaps was the sole intention of the director, in bringing the movie’s ratings up. I bet you Jolie’s agent charged the director dearly for display of her nudity.

The end of the movie also didn’t look very convincing. If Illeana expected Asher to visit her, how did she know that he will stick the knife particularly into her stomach? The entire ending looked too arbitrary and had no meaning. Ok, she happened to kill the serial killer so what? A typical Hollywood happy end.

Thus, my conclusion about this movie “it is another flick that could be easily added to Jolie’s collection.”
Yet, who says one cannot watch flicks? Thank God, we live in a free society!

Respectfully, @mgaft1.

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