DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Taking Lives - Unrated Director's Cut

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Aug 11, 2004.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    Taking Lives
    Unrated Director's Cut

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 2004
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 109 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD 5.1
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $27.95
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase

    The Feature:
    For the past 20 years a serial killer has been assuming the identities of his victims. The question is why? What does he want and why does he choose these particular victims?

    When the mutilated body of a man is uncovered at a construction site, FBI Special Agent Illeana Scott (played by Angela Jolie), a profiler, is brought in to help out an old friend, Leclair (played by Tchéky Karyo) who is a Superintendent with the Montreal Police with their investigation. Her job is to get into the killer’s psyche and to anticipate his next move. When a second murder occurs, police think they have the break they are waiting for when a witness, James Costa (played by Ethan Hawke) comes forward. Trying to protect their witness and catch the killer before he kills again becomes a formidable task.

    The enigmatic Kiefer Sutherland also appears as a suspect named Hart, while Gena Rowlands who plays Mrs. Asher, the mother of a man whom police consider a suspect, although she suspects her son was murdered years earlier.

    What develops is an archetypical cat-and-mouse game between profiler and suspect. As she learns more about the killer, he learns more about her. When the killer strikes again, killing a police officer and kidnapping their witness, Scott must face the fact that she has growing feelings for Costa.

    When an event occurs that leaves Scott feeling foolish and betrayed, she strikes back. Refusing to give in, Scott’s determination to catch the killer may be the only thing the killer didn’t count on.

    This psychological thriller doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. The plot has been recycled numerous times and many cases, much more effectively. And I gotta be honest, I’ve quickly grown tired of Angelina Jolie and several of her recent choices, not to mention the shenanigans surrounding the circus-like separation that has been printed regarding her tumultuous relationship with Billy Bob Thornton. In this case, Jolie does a fairly decent job playing Special Agent Scott in a role that is appreciably more subdued than many of the recent appearances.

    In somewhat of a disturbing trend, twice in the last couple of weeks, Warner Brothers has delivered Fullscreen screeners. This is the first time they’ve ever sent pan & scan copies. After sending off an email advising them the obvious preference of the forum was to review movies in their OAR, shortly after I was sent a proper Widescreen (unrated) version - which is the version I used for my review. The folks at WB are great to deal with and they think very highly of this forum so I would hope they continue to support OAR screeners so they can be properly reviewed and reported. And finally, Warner Brothers is issuing the film in an “R” rated widescreen edition, an ‘R” rated fullscreen edition, and the unrated Director's Cut (widescreen only) which runs six minutes longer than the regular version.

    The Feature: 3/5

    You wouldn’t think it could be possible, but it would seem as though transfers from Warner Brothers just keep getting better and better and this is yet another example of one that borders on perfection.

    Colors were nicely saturated and vibrant while skin colors looked real and accurate. Blacks were deep and inky which might be my only area of complaint (as a contrast issue) as many of the darker shot scenes lack some definition, however whites always appeared stark and clean.

    Image definition looked great and always sharp with only a few occasions of a slightly softer appearance. Filtering…? Perhaps, but a fine looking image. As we would expect, the print was immaculate and free of any dust or dirt blemishes and was rock solid, devoid of any shimmer or jitter.

    And finally, there were no compression errors or any sort of annoying edge enhancement issues to speak of.

    A superb job…!

    Video: 4.5/5

    The film is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 track which does a pretty decent job of keeping the viewer involved. First up, the track is immaculate and free of any noise or hiss distractions.

    I would describe the track as slightly aggressive. It seems as though they decided to pull back on the track as the film starts off overly forward but seems to fall back slightly – it is effective, but a track that was perhaps just slightly more intense, may have been a healthy shot in the arm. Dialogue was always clear and exceptionally bold. The dynamic range is also vast but regrettably underused.

    The surround channels are employed effectively. While I appreciate surround information my preference for its deployment is to be rather subtle and not used to an extent which causes your focus to be taken away from the front soundstage or worse, sound gimmicky. In this case, they have done a perfect job. There are a number of events which take place (a helicopter, crowd din, rain etc), all of which sound real and add to the sense of envelopment. There are also a few examples of some great .1 LFE usage but unfortunately it too is infrequent.

    A very effective track – well done.

    Audio: 4/5

    Special Features:
    The special features are fairly thin but WB has included a few to complement the outstanding presentation.
    [*] First up is Crime Lab which is a documentary comprised of a compilation of smaller features. They are:

    - “The Art of Collaboration” - Duration: 5:04 minutes
    - “Profiling a Director” - Duration: 6:24 minutes
    - “Bodies of Evidence” - Duration: 6:06 minutes
    - “Puzzle Within The Puzzle” - Duration: 3:40 minutes

    Collectively, the features discuss many topics including the concept of the film, casting and various thoughts and comments relating to director D.J. Caruso. Not a bad little feature although it’s not necessarily the most informative.
    [*] In an interesting decision, a Gag Reel is included. Anyone else think this is rather strange given the genre of the film…? And to add to my confusion, a circus-like carnival theme song accompanies the clips. Bizarre but there are a couple of funny clips… Duration: 2:47 minutes
    [*] The Theatrical Trailer is also presented in anamorphic widescreen which should be and is, in perfect condition. Duration: 2:27 minutes

    Special Features: 3/5

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

    Final Thoughts:
    D.J. Caruso was the budding director of Taking Lives who was also responsible for The Salton Sea (2002). If you’re a fan of such films as The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, there’s a strong chance that you’ll enjoy this too. Just don’t go into this one expecting an equal. It’s a rather pedestrian psych thriller complete with its fair share of twists and turns, that’s guaranteed to make you jump out of your seat at least a couple of times, and one which admittedly, I found mildly entertaining.

    While the special features are light, the presentation is spectacular. The movie is just too run of the mill to warrant any type of purchase recommendation but it should serve well as a solid rental.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5 (not an average)

    Release Date: August 17th, 2004
  2. Travis W.

    Travis W. Second Unit

    Jun 11, 2004
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    Nice review Herb. [​IMG]

    Warner's announcement of street dates is getting later anymore. This wasn't even officially announced until last month and their Troy is still set to come out on 10/12 (with no announcement).
  3. Justin Bauer

    Justin Bauer Supporting Actor

    Feb 19, 2003
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    i loved the movie. I cannot wait.
  4. David Illingworth II

    David Illingworth II Second Unit

    May 11, 2001
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    Six minutes is plenty of extra time ... any ideas what is included that wasn't in the theatrical cut?
  5. EnricoE

    EnricoE Supporting Actor

    Oct 14, 2003
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    i'd say it's some more violence, gory pictures of crime scenes, nudity and some plot points. well this i only can assume since i've only seen the unrated [​IMG]
  6. jason:g

    jason:g Stunt Coordinator

    Apr 16, 2004
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    Very true. I did not find it interesting. Most thrillers are very formulaic, though. I think I liked the Alex Cross movies, "Kiss The Girls" and "Along Came A Spider".
  7. MuneebM

    MuneebM Supporting Actor

    Jan 12, 2004
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  8. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

    Jan 6, 2004
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    It started out interesting (as most serial killer films do) but loses steam about half way through. I didn't like the movie enough to listen to the commentary track or watch the extra features, but I had it figured out fairly early on, and confirmed it with a scene that gives away one of the twists:
    When Costas (Ethan Hawke) is treated for the bullet wound, you can see a scar above his stomach, implying that the injury is the same as the one Martin Asher had but was missing from the body exhumed from his grave.

    I do agree that there was one "jump-out-of-your-seat" scare:
    when Jolie is lying on Martin's bed in the basement of his mother's house!
    I must have jumped a foot!

    Not a complete waste, but worthy of a rental.

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