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In Taking Lives, Angelina Jolie gets to indulge her weird side. As you watch Jolie portray Illeana Scott, an FBI profiler with “uncanny abilities,” you can’t help but get the feeling that it was her idea to have her character knock boots on a pile of bloodied-corpse photos, say, or to be introduced lying in a grave—to which one of Scott’s cynical new partners responds, “You gotta be fucking kidding me.” Alas, nobody’s kidding anyone in this holey whodunit, the cornily stylized second offering from The Salton Sea director D.J. Caruso. Taking Lives is a sexed-up version of a Michael Pye novel that shares the movie’s name but not its lead character: Scott is a complete invention, though the movie turns on her intuitiveness, solitary lifestyle, and the rest of her…well, “abilities.” Scott is met with skepticism by the Québecois cops she’s called upon to help with a Montreal homicide investigation. But she proves indispensable when a skittish witness, James Costa (Ethan Hawke), agrees to continue cooperating with the police in hopes of getting some special attention from the special agent. Though Taking Lives does an adequate job of keeping you guessing until the end, the movie is dominated by cheap scares, faux suspense, and too many random close-ups—of a martini glass, for instance, or a pair of birds—meant to serve as creepy testaments to Scott’s powers of observation. Hawke is a girlish source of comic relief as sensitive artist Costa, though that same quality makes the pivotal sexual tension between Costa and Scott rather unbelievable. Jolie, meanwhile, seems
custom-made to play the twisted tough gal in a movie full of gruesome imagery—Caruso’s also generous with shots of long-dead victims—but her character’s dark side isn’t explored deeply enough to draw your interest past her pillowy pout. Faces both beautiful and beastly, in fact, make the strongest impressions here. If a thriller is to be judged on its ability to keep you up after you turn out the lights, Taking Lives might just be considered a success. —Tricia Olszewski