A dead body with a smashed-in face and cut-off hands is uncovered at a Montreal construction site. The local authorities are all over it but police inspector Hugo Leclair (Tcheky Karyo) thinks it might be bigger than just a random murder and decides to bring in his good friend Special Agent Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie) an FBI profiler who relies on her intuition rather than conventional crime-solving techniques. She proves it by immediately lying in the victim's grave to get a "sense" of what happened to him. (Wow we've never seen that before.) The Montreal detectives on the case Paquette (Olivier Martinez) and Duval (Jean-Hugues Anglade) are skeptical of her ways especially Paquette who thinks she's just plain nuts (we're with ya Paquette) and resents her involvement. The investigative team catches a lucky break when witness James Costa (Ethan Hawke) pops up claiming he stumbled upon the killer mid-murder (but not in time to save the victim) and can identify him. With Costa's help Illeana gets a clearer picture of her "profile " discovering he is a chameleon-like serial killer who "life-jacks" his victims assuming their lives and identities. At first she's hot on his tracks but the usually detached Illeana is thrown for a loop when an unexpected attraction develops between her and James. She suddenly feels like she is losing her touch; and surrounded by what could be a bevy of potential suspects things get chillingly personal.
Jolie has done this before sort of in the 1999 The Bone Collector in which she played a homicide detective who works with a quadriplegic partner to catch a serial killer so inhabiting Agent Scott is not new territory for her. Neither is acting in the steamy love scene she gets to share with Hawke which as we all know is something Jolie can do well. What is surprising for a movie of this type however is the fact the uptight emotionless FBI profiler actually gets to have sex which brings out Scott's more human qualities. The ultra-smooth Hawke whom we haven't seen since his Oscar-nominated turn in the 2001 Training Day also does some intriguing things with his character who may or may not be the bad guy (see below). The rest of the cast however falls into conventional psycho thriller compartments--the good cop (Anglade) the bad cop (Martinez) the concerned confidante (Karyo) and the person who provides key information about the serial killer's background (his mother played by Gena Rowlands)--without shedding anything new on the proceedings.
If you've seen one big-budget psychological serial killer movie you've seen them all. You know that the one guy they want you to think is the killer really isn't. You know that the other more unlikely guy probably is. You know somehow the hero--a smart cop FBI agent etc.--will eventually find his or her life in mortal danger. And finally you know the killer rarely dies on the first attempt; he always comes back. What you hope is that at some point the filmmaker will throw a wrench in the works. Something you couldn't predict even if given all the clues. Taking Lives director D.J. Caruso tries his best to do this. Through his camerawork he sets up Illeana's hyper-sensitive skills of observation as she notices everything around her only to see those skills fail on her later--and aided by composer Phillip Glass' haunting musical score the film reaches the predictable high points fulfilling its thriller quota. Montreal also provides a change of pace from the usual grimy Big Apple or other such gritty American locales prominently feature in such films. But what keeps Taking Lives in the running is its curveball at the end. If you don't mind wading through the rest of the movie's obviousness the wait is worth it.
On May 8, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will begin a yearlong celebration in honor of its 75th anniversary. The festivities will kick off with a party at La Cienega Park in Beverly Hills and continue through next year, ending with the 75th annual Academy Awards on March 23, 2003, at the Kodak Theater. According to Variety, Academy President Frank Pierson said he will outline plans for the festivities during the inaugural celebration, adding that "there might be a surprise or two during the evening."
The sultry Denise Richards, who recently became engaged to Charlie Sheen, is apparently quite germ phobic. According to PageSix.com, Richards told The London Mirror: "I like everything clean. I carry around hand sanitizer and wash with it after I've shaken hands." The actress went on to say she uses an antibacterial ointment that she puts in her nose on planes. And she's going to marry whom, again?
Julia Stiles is partnering up in a new film production company, Variety reports. Stiles, who starred in the box office hit Save the Last Dance and the teen drama O, will join forces with O producer Eric Gitter and home video distributor Steve Scavelli to run the independently financed firm Smithy's Films. The company, which already has two projects in the works, will be looking for productions with budgets of about $8 million to $10 million.
In the Biz
Film critic Roger Ebert will launch the fourth annual Overlooked Film Festival in his hometown of Urbana-Champaign, Ill., on April 24. The festival will screen 14 films, starting with George C. Scott's 1970 war drama Patton. Ebert says major Hollywood studios are choosing safe pictures that aren't challenging moviegoers rather than taking chances on independent and foreign films, The Associated Press reports.
Pixar Animation and Disney revealed their upcoming slate Sunday, and it includes fish, cars and suburban superheroes. According to the AP, Pixar and Disney's next project will be an underwater adventure entitled Finding Nemo, a story about father and son fish that become separated in the Great Barrier Reef. The film will feature the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe and Geoffrey Rush and is slated for release in summer 2003. Also in the works: The Incredibles in 2004 and Cars in 2005. Disney/Pixar's 2001 feature Monsters, Inc. recently crossed $500 million at box office, making it the second biggest animated film of all time behind only Disney's The Lion King
Producers Robert Michael Geisler and John Roberdeau have purchased the film rights to Sen. John McCain's best-selling memoir Faith of My Fathers and are planning a feature film. While McCain has no contractual control over the film's content, Roberdeau, who with Geisler produced the 1998 World War II drama The Thin Red Line, said he'd welcome his input.
Looks like Dylan McDermott will be keeping busy during the summer hiatus of his successful series The Practice. Variety reported Sunday that McDermott will be playing nightclub impresario Peter Gatien in Party Monster, the true story of party promoter and convicted killer Michael Alig. McDermott will join Macaulay Culkin--who will play Alig--Seth Green, Marilyn Manson, Chloe Sevigny and Natasha Lyonne. Filming is set to begin May 13 in New York.
The syndicated talk show Jenny Jones has been saved from the proverbial axing block. Although the show has spent more than 10 years on the air, the top two markets New York and Los Angeles, Fox-owned WWOR and KCOP, had decided not to renew the show, casting a shadow on the show's fate. But Jenny Jones was rescued after Tribune Broadcasting agreed to carry the show on all of its 23 stations.
American film cable network AMC is developing a reality series called Movie Trailer about towns that serve as movie locations, Variety reports. If the pilot goes to series, Mystery Science Theater 3000 veteran Mike Nelson will host the show and travel around the country by trailer, visiting almost-famous locations and asking locals to share stories about their experiences.
Sylvester Stallone will claim the title of action star of the millennium at the Video Software Dealers Assn. Convention in Las Vegas in July, Variety reports. The award coincides with the 20th anniversary of First Blood's theatrical release and comes on the heels of the release of the special-edition DVD The Rambo Trilogy by Artisan Home Entertainment on May 28.
Shaolin Soccer won seven awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday, including best film, director, young director, actor, supporting actor, sound design and visual effects. The comedy centers around a down-and-out alum of the Shaolin school of martial arts who gets some of his old Shaolin pals--saffron robes and all--to apply their high kicks and superhuman techniques to the game of soccer. The film will be released in the United States early next year.
Emmy Award-winning playwright Reginald Rose died Friday at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn. He was 81. Rose, who wrote and co-produced the film Twelve Angry Men and penned The Wild Geese and Whose Life Is It Anyway?, is survived by his wife and six children from two marriages.