Taking Lives

Like other insults to the intelligence, movie absurdity grows less irksome the more it is borne. I get tired just thinking about what would once have seemed the imperative need to complain when, in D.J. Caruso’s Taking Lives, Angelina Jolie is represented as the smartest detective the FBI can find to send to the assistance of the Montreal police department when a serial killer is on the loose. Those Lara Croft breasts! Those bee-stung lips! That gigantic forensic brain! What’s not to like? Who doesn’t get a thrill hearing sexy Angelina, the ex-Mrs Billy Bob Thornton, cooly inform the backwoodsmen of Montreal that “psychopaths actually have very different brain patterns”?

They’ve worn us down, folks. We’ve stopped expecting movie detectives to be even remotely believable. Obviously, it is but a short step from there to the point where we’ve stopped expecting movie detection — or movie crime — to be believable either. At any rate, that’s where we seem to have arrived with Taking Lives. The target of comely Ileanna, Miss Jolie’s character here, is a serial killer who is even more serial than most. That is, he picks out lonely strangers of about his own size and build, brutally murders them — usually by smashing in their faces — and then pretends to be them until it’s time to take, and take on, another life. Talk about your identity theft!

Why would anyone do anything so, well, psycho? It must be those mysterious “brain patterns.” We learn that the killer was born an identitical twin, and his brother, who died in mysterious circumstances, was his mother’s favorite. The veteran Gena Rowlands does an occasionally amusing turn as the battle-axe of a mother which, along with Ms Jolie’s breasts, is about the best thing there is in this film. At one point as Mama is examining with unnatural detachment the body of the latest victim, to pronounce whether or not it is, finally, her son, the police escort says to her: “You can’t touch the body.”

“I’ll touch anything I wish,” she snaps back haughtily.

No wonder when she comes face to face with the killer he goes all puppyish and says that “All I ever wanted was to love you.” Actually, it turns out that he also wanted to love Ileanna, but then who wouldn’t? At any rate, it seems natural that the candidates for psycho-killer and for Ileanna-lover are basically the same three guys: Kiefer Sutherland, Ethan Hawke and Olivier Martinez — Hollywood hunks to a man It will be pretty obvious to anyone who makes the mistake of going to this movie which one of them is going to win on both counts, but then that kind of kinky association of sex and murder is also something we’ve grown so used to from Tinseltown over the last few years that it seems almost pointless to protest about it anymore. All you can do (if you’re smart) is stay home.

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