Those stuck watching Taking Lives might find it fun to perform this thought experiment: Try stripping it of its serial-killer-movie clichés and imagining what's left. The result would be a strikingly different film, one in which a top-rank FBI profiler would discover she has nothing in common with the psychopaths she stalks, a pair of twins would end up not featuring an evil half, the menacing character set up to look like the killer would actually be the killer, and the inevitable final twist would not shift the guilt to the most obvious party.
Sadly, Taking Lives, adapted from a novel by Michael Pye, instead proves to be one long wallow in elements that have long since had their effectiveness dulled flat. Introduced reclining in a victim's shallow grave, on-loan American agent Angelina Jolie hits the streets to rid Quebec of its most hated visitor since Triumph The Insult Comic Dog: a serial killer with an overlapping knack for mutilation and identity theft. Breathlessly recounting his brush with death after interrupting the madman's latest conquest, and helpfully providing a sketch that looks a lot like a cameo-friendly character actor from a popular TV show, sensitive art dealer Ethan Hawke fears he'll be the next victim. He seeks the protective custody of Jolie, who finds herself strangely attracted to her charge.
As the ace detective slowly catches up with what most of the audience has already deduced, director D.J. Caruso piles on the lingering close-ups of evidence, while the repetitions of the Philip Glass score only emphasize that the story is getting nowhere fast. Hawke and Jolie are both better than they need to be, and it helps that Gena Rowlands, Tchéky Karyo (in the Morgan Freeman role), and Olivier Martinez fill out the cast. But in the end, the touches of class amount to so much make-up on an all-too-familiar pig.