There's no denying that Jolie is sexy as hell. The tattoos, the knife collection, the exhibitionist streak, the bisexual vibe she gives off ... totally hot, no question. Plus, she has that Oscar.
But then, there's also Life or Something Like It. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Beyond Borders. Gone in Sixty Seconds. It's beginning to seem as though large breasts and a willingness to flaunt them are all that separate Jolie from, say, Cuba Gooding Jr., who also has a gold statue and little to show for it. The aforementioned hooters are briefly on display in Jolie's newest movie, Taking Lives, but if that's the allure, you're better off buying a used copy of Gia or Original Sin than sitting through this latest disappointment.
To make Lives a double letdown, the director is D.J. Caruso, whose feature debut, The Salton Sea, was a wild contemporary noir that channeled Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino. Here, Caruso is trying to clone Seven, from the derivative opening credits (Philip Glass is no substitute for Trent Reznor) to the decaying interiors lit solely by the flashlights of investigating officers. There are two sudden shocks that work well, but this is no David Fincher flick. Fincher fans will yawn, and those who hate the guy won't be won over by Caruso's fetish for severed body parts.
Things start off promisingly. In 1983, a sensitive-looking youngster (Paul Dano) runs away from home and hooks up with a military-school escapee (Justin Chatwin, from the recent U.S. TV version of Traffic), who apparently plans to get a jump on the '90s by fleeing to Seattle to play guitar. Then there's a sudden dramatic turn of events, and the Seven credits are rolling. Damn.
For the rest of the movie, the big mystery is: Which above-the-title movie star has Dano's character grown up to become? Whiny art dealer Ethan Hawke? Brooding Frenchman Olivier Martinez? Or sinister Kiefer Sutherland, whose screen time is so brief he could have shot it on his lunch break from 24? Whoever it is would apparently be the first serial killer Montreal has ever seen, a situation that puzzles all those French-Canadians so much that they require the services of a busty American FBI agent who likes to lie in open graves (Jolie, naturally).
The killer likes to take lives in more ways than one -- after he has bashed a victim's face in with a rock, he assumes the person's identity. His motivation has to do with some nonsense about him being an evil twin. Yes, really. Hawke is the key witness to the killer's most recent crime -- unless, of course, he's lying and is actually the killer. Martinez is a chauvinistic cop who'd like to work on the case without interference from Jolie. Of course, he may just want to get rid of her because he's the killer. The film's finale is a laugh-out-loud combination of ludicrousness and sadism that someone who's never seen a thriller before might find scary. Honestly, this stuff makes you long for Joe Eszterhas.