Since the distinguished former FBI profiler Robert Ressler coined the term “serial killer” the public has been equally disturbed and intrigued by these wicked criminals and their nightmarish acts of depravity. The foundation of the world’s first National Centre For The Analysis Of Crime in Virginia – made famous in the film The Silence of the Lambs – and the exploits of Special Agents in tracking psychopaths and calculated murderers have inspired authors and filmmakers alike.
Writers such as Mary Higgins Clark and Thomas Harris have formed their careers writing about grotesque killers and their heinous crimes. Ressler and his colleagues meanwhile have inspired films like Seven and the television series The X Files. Taking Lives, although similar in plot and style to the aforementioned films, does not even come close to joining them in the list of classic serial killer films.
FBI Profiler Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie) is sent to Canada to assist Montreal’s police force in capturing a serial killer, who travels across the country and assumes the identities of his victims. What would seem to be a routine case for a distinguished expert turns into a far more unpleasant experience than she could have imagined. Not only does Scott have to contend with a bitter partner on unfamiliar turf, but also her professional integrity is called into question as she develops personal feelings for the case’s only witness – such emotions have disastrous consequences.
The main flaw the film has is its lack of suspects. There are few characters and very little evidence to keep the viewer’s mind working for almost two hours. The film is littered with clichs – a hostile cop upset at the arrival of an FBI agent, a witness who falls for the agent, and an obviously innocent suspect.
It seems the viewer is taken for granted and treated as an ignorant fool, an example being the ridiculously superficial motive of the killer. Destructive or distant relationships between a mother and her son have in the past created memorable films, the most obvious being Psycho. Rather than a passing glance, more concentration of such a relationship in this film would have created extra tension and solid reasoning for the killer’s wicked acts. As it stands, the killer’s motive in Taking Lives is rather frivolous.
Director D J Caruso, whose previous credits include episodes of The Shield and Dark Angel, directs the film with an understanding of the situations the audience have to be placed in in order to create and maintain suspense. Caruso does not always succeed in his aims, but there are some tense scenes that include an apartment and house search similar to Seven.
Taking Lives is too long – an obviously weak story has been lengthened, resulting in an out of place and silly, although surprising, prologue which causes the film to lose momentum. Perhaps Caruso should stick to directing one-hour television episodes. Turn on Channel Five about nine o’clock on most nights and you will see films similar to this one – bog standard, distinctly average run-of-the-mill thrillers.