I love thrillers, but sadly this ‘psychological thriller’ is downright stupid. It’s based on a novel by Michael Pye. I’m unable to make a comparison between the source novel and movie adaptation because, as of this writing, I haven’t read the book. I have heard that the movie is a ‘loose’ adaptation … which would explain a lot.
A pity because Taking Lives starts well:
Martin Asher (Paul Dano) is a teenager during the early 1980s. During a bus journey, he is befriended by rebel Matt Soulsby (Justin Chatwin – who also played Tom Cruise’s irritating, ingrate teenage son in War of the Worlds (2005)). As they switch from bus to car and continue their journey to Seattle, they talk and it seems, on the surface, that they have a lot in common. Until things turn sinister when the front tire is punctured and, while Matt struggles to loosen the wheel nuts, Martin remarks how they are both about the same height. As Matt is wondering why he said it, Martin suddenly kicks him in the path of an oncoming van.
It’s then apparent that Martin Asher is not a well lad … not well in the head … not well at all.
Martin then steals his wallet, his identity, guitar and wanders up a hillside imitating the way Matt sang, effectively taking his life. Did someone tell Martin to “get a life” and he took the advice the wrong way?
Twenty years pass, Ethan Hawke now plays Martin, which is a casting mistake because, as fine an actor as he is, it’s a problem with continuity, the actor looks completely different from Paul Dano, with totally different facial bone structure and there’s no way, without some radical surgery, Dano would mature to look like Hawke.
Anyway, back to the crappy movie …
Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie), is an FBI profiler. Apparently she has some sort of psychic gift because she lays around in empty graves because it – somehow! – makes her a better profiler. Ummm … OK! But she isn’t that gifted because she didn’t figure out that Martin (Hawke) was the killer and titular taker of lives, or that Kiefer Sutherland’s character is a half-baked red-herring.
Then there’s the usual clichéd fitting-in-with-the-team tension between Illeana and the Montreal cops … a set-up … a car chase … an explosion … a laughably awkward love scene …
the gruesome crime scene photos above Illeana’s bed because it helps her be a better profiler. Ummm … OK! … even though she still can’t figure out that weirdo Martin is the killer when the rest of us have … because it’s so glaringly obvious!
Martin’s old mom (Gena Rowlands) comes to town and she’s also none-too-pleased with her wayward, homicidal son’s goings on, probably wishing she’d smacked his ass harder the day he was born! She doesn’t get the chance though because Martin cuts off her head in the elevator.
Only then does it dawn on Illeana, when she sees Martin with mom’s head in one hand and the wire in the other, covered in her blood, with the elevator also covered in blood … that something’s not quite right with him.
Cue recriminations from Illeana’s peers and self-loathing as she scrubs herself in the shower.
And the inevitable and unremarkable final showdown and twist is yet to come … if you want to bother.
There is some effective cinematography, particularly with the house she chose to stake herself out in at the end:
But overall, the movie was boring, stupid, the plot was simplified and the twists obvious from the start with an ending that fizzled. The cast, all impressive actors, were wasted in this and let down by a lame script.
Some might argue that this movie isn’t that bad. Granted, compared to other garbage out there, it’s a passable way to spend a couple of hours. But it could have been a whole lot better than it was, and the selling tagline on the poster - He would kill to be you. – resonates in my mind and I would have happily traded places for someone else to have sat through this movie instead of me.