Taking Lives

Taking Lives

2.5 out of 52.5 out of 52.5 out of 52.5 out of 52.5 out of 52.5

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Seemingly patterned from the classic Patricia Highsmith template, this umpteenth serial killer procedural opens with a prologue fully acclimated to the motifs of its inspiration. The overripe ambiance is pure Bryan Singer when a reticent outcast hooks up with a hotshot military escapee and the two hit the road amid coy glances and strains of U2’s “Bad.” “You and I are about the same height, man,” says Shyness before kicking Strength’s backside into an oncoming truck and assuming his identity. Cut to two decades later: a spate of similar murders have occurred and a panicked Montreal PD recruits Angelina Jolie’s F.B.I. Special Agent Scott (note the masculine signifier), who draws intuitive clues by laying in a victim’s shallow grave and eating a steak dinner while staring at squalid, Muppet-like crime photos. She closes in on the murderer while fending off a rival detective (Olivier Martinez, challenging Jolie for the prize of most pursed lips in show business), flirting with a prime witness-cum-prime suspect (infantile Ethan Hawke), and deciphering the killer’s mother (Gena Rowlands, still indomitable but clearly bored), whose cruddy basement is the site of the film’s cheapest non-sequitur. Putting a woman in command is synonymous, of course, with putting a woman in peril. Much like its antagonist, Taking Lives is too eager to conform. Director D.J. Caruso and screenwriter Jon Bokenkamp deliberately abandon the psychosexual potential of a character study for more of the same old genre routine—Philip Glass’s score (basically flute and percussion leftovers from The Fog of War) lend merely noise, not credibility. Desperate to conjure third act surprises and patronize to the test audience predisposition, the plot only grows more impotent and rote, but the only real victim is the sadly floundering Jolie. Despite the serious thriller packaging (and her mounting resemblance to Isabelle Adjani, especially in distress mode), she is indeed sillier here than in either Lara Croft: Tomb Raider flicks or the lush, trashy Original Sin. Her poker-faced, Clarice Starling-with-bustier role is totally at odds with her natural camp persona. There’s a reason why the poster for Taking Lives is better than the movie itself—those lips ain’t made for talking.


Warner Home Video delivers a remarkably solid video and audio transfer for Taking Lives on this DVD edition of the film. Though dirt and flecks are noticeable throughout, that's the only problem with this image. Pleasingly grainy, the presentation is free of edge enhancement and is alive with rich colors and deep blacks. Furthermore, skin tones are excellent and shadow delineation is remarkable during night sequences. The Dolby Digital surround track is equally impressive. From the sound of tape peeling off of doorways to the sneaky Philip Glass score, the track is very active and dynamic range is impressive.


"4 probing documentaries"? Not exactly. In the Crime Lab section of the film's supplemental materials, you'll find four insignificant featurettes that scarcely run longer than five minutes apiece: "The Art of Collaboration," about how the filmmaking team came together; "Profiling a Director," about D.J. Caruso's aesthetic approach and how he landed the film's directing gig; "Bodies of Evidence," which focuses on the film's supporting players; and "Puzzle Within a Puzzle," about the teamwork between Caruso and editor Anne V. Coates. Save for the last featurette, nothing here can exactly be described as "probing." Rounding out the disc is a gag reel, theatrical trailers, and previews of Spartan, Mystic River, and The Big Bounce.


Four not-so-"probing" documentaries highlight this Taking Lives DVD, which should appeal only to fans of Angelina Jolie’s boobies.

Image 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5

Sound 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5

Extras 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5

Overall 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5

  • DVD-Video
  • Dual-Layer Disc
  • Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Dolby Digital Formats
  • English 5.1 Surround
  • French 5.1 Surround
  • DTS
  • None
  • Subtitles & Captions
  • English Closed Captions
  • English Subtitles
  • French Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles
  • Special Features
  • 4 Probing Documentaries
  • Gag Reel
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Previews
  • Buy
    Release Date
    August 17, 2004
    Warner Home Video
    103 min
    D.J. Caruso
    John Bokenkamp
    Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland, Olivier Martinez, Gena Rowlands, Justin Chatwin, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Paul Dano