Taking Lives [2004]

While it doesn't rank with such grim classics as The Silence of the Lambs and Seven, D.J. Caruso's Taking Lives offers similarly heavy atmosphere, beginning well before fizzling into absurdity. Freely adapted from the novel by Michael Pye, and set in Montreal (although it was filmed in Quebec City), the plot trades in several familiar tropes of the serial-killer genre, beginning with the FBI agent (Angelina Jolie) who brings her unique skills (and brooding, low-key demeanor) to the vexing case of a killer who, out of apparent self-loathing, steals the identities of his victims and lives their lives until it's time for the next gruesome murder. Ethan Hawke plays the killer's alleged next victim, and in a film filled with twists that grow increasingly unconvincing, Keifer Sutherland is menacingly cast as a shifty suspect. Caruso's previous film was the creepy drug thriller The Salton Sea, so he's well-qualified to infuse Taking Lives with a darkly stylish sense of dread and at least one good shock to keep your adrenaline flowing. The second half essentially betrays the promise of the first, but there's enough going on to hold your interest to the end. --Jeff Shannon

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