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Thursday, March 18, 2004

Ladies' blight

Movie: Taking Lives

Posted on Thu, Mar 18, 2004 at 4:00 AM

*1/2
Our Rating: 1.50

How come Hollywood persists in giving us female law-enforcement officers who throw their professionalism to the wind to get down 'n dirty with hunky civilians -- and then are horribly punished for their indiscretions? Isn't that just setting up a straw man to knock down? (Or straw woman?) The latest victim of this onscreen witch hunt is Angelina Jolie, whose FBI agent Illeana Scott in "Taking Lives" comes on like a dizzy schoolgirl and attains barely a shred of real dignity throughout the mucho ass-kicking that is to follow.

Summoned to Canada to work a serial-killer case, Illeana ends up falling for her only eyewitness (Ethan Hawke), thus incurring a whole mess of silly-girl trouble -- including a hard slap in the face (literally) from an indignant cop (Olivier Martinez) who thinks that workplace inappropriateness should stop at babe-denigrating banter. The movie seems to consider that slap acceptable censure, clearing the way for a climactic image that may be the ugliest homage to domestic violence I've ever seen in a film.

But what the movie accomplishes in misogyny, it nearly equals in lack of imagination: The intrepid investigators are literally an hour behind the audience with every major discovery, leaving us plenty of time to wonder if the "mysterious" killer will turn out to be the most obvious choice from among the few major characters, or just the stupidest. (Maybe it's both!) In the meantime, a car blows up. Jolie bares her breasts. And Hawke's determination to interrupt the simplest lines of dialogue with method-y stutters and gulps for breath proves that he may be the worst "serious" actor working today.

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