2004-04-16 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

‘Taking Lives’ – The Silence Of The Lips

In "Taking Lives," Tomb Raider Angelina Jolie enters into serial killer territory once investigated by Jodie Foster in the terrifying "The Silence of the Lambs." While Foster played virginal workaholic FBI agent Clarice Starling, Jolie with her large, luscious lips is less convincing in a similar role.

While not on the level with "Lambs," "Taking" has its share of frightening moments... enough  to make your girlfriend grab your arm and hide her head under it. That is, after all, the purpose of any effective thriller.

Directed by D.J. Caruso from a Michael Pye novel, "Taking" opens with its most shocking scene. It’s 1983 and a young hippie befriends another drifter on a bus, which breaks down... sending the two out on the road. Before long, the hippie has crushed the face of his new buddy with a rock and stolen his identity. We then learn that the murderer’s mother, Mrs. Asher (Gena Rowlands) is convinced that he is still alive and dangerous.

Twenty years and many murders later, Agent Illeana Scott (Jolie) is on the case, which is now in Canada. She’s working with three French-speaking male chauvinist detectives, who make sexist comments in the subtitles (which, unbeknownst to them, she understands). They are interrogating art dealer James Costa (Ethan Hawke), a possible murder witness. Or is he a suspect? Savvy Agent Scott gives Costa a quick psychopath-acid test and concludes that he’s not a serial killer. Why don’t they ask Mrs. Asher? Too easy. But, Costa is beginning to melt the ice in Illeana’s veins, so it looks like love is on the way (this being a Hollywood film and they being attractive movie stars).

As the Jon Bokenkamp script moves through its jolt-and-jump routines, the story is flawed by its easily predictable who’s-the-killer conclusion. As a result, a coda is tacked on to add a few surprises. It’s quite scary with now pregnant Agent Scott alone, isolated and vulnerable in a rundown farmhouse. Shock substitutes logic as the psycho comes to visit.

"Taking Lives" is a paint-by-numbers serial-killer thriller, which is unfortunate because director Caruso created a truly innovative mind-bending mystery with 2002’s "The Salton Sea." He put us inside the warped mind of  Val Kilmer’s police informant bent on avenging his wife’s murderers in the LA’s drug netherworld. "Taking" has Caruso struggling to reproduce the horror of "Lambs" with Angelina’s lips. Though ever creepy Kiefer Sutherland makes a brief appearance, what’s  needed is a villain as spin-tingling as Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal.

What we’re left with is Jolie and Hawke making love among the murders with little sense, but some suspense.

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