Taking Lives: Special Director's Cut (2004)

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Released 22-Sep-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer
Featurette-The Art Of Collaboration
Featurette-Profiling A Director
Featurette-Bodies Of Evidence
Featurette-Puzzle Within The Puzzle
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 104:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (46:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By D.J. Caruso

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Angelina Jolie
Ethan Hawke
Kiefer Sutherland
Gena Rowlands
Olivier Martinez
Tchéky Karyo
Jean-Hugues Anglade
Paul Dano
Justin Chatwin
André Lacoste
Billy Two Rivers
Richard Lemire
Julien Poulin
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Philip Glass
Walter Werzowa

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, minor
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    It must be really hard for makers of would-be stylish serial killer thrillers. After the wonderfully atmospheric Se7en and the masterpiece that was Silence of the Lambs, numerous films have tried to reach those lofty heights of cinematic perfection and few have succeeded. Taking Lives, starring the decidedly average Angelina Jolie, is the latest in a long line of inferior but well intentioned also-rans.

    Before the opening credits roll, the film starts very promisingly with an intriguing set-up that makes you hope that this could be The Talented Mr Ripley (one of my absolute favourite films) meets Se7en. A gawky young man named Martin Asher, looking for all the world like a frightened deer, boards a bus and is soon joined by Matt - another young man who is on the run from a military school. When the bus breaks down, the two decide to buy a beat-up old car and continue their escapist road trip alone. An exploding tyre soon sees the lads on an isolated stretch of road with little chance of any outside assistance. Quietly whispering to himself "you and I are the same height..." as an SUV comes thundering by, Martin forces Matt into the path of the oncoming vehicle with deadly consequences. It is apparent that young Martin has a few socialisation problems.

    The (Se7en inspired) opening titles bring us up to date with some stylish montage sequences informing the audience that a series of unsolved murders have taken place in Canada over the last decade, with the mutilated bodies of several young men discovered along the way. When a new corpse turns up on a building site in Montreal, the French Canadian detectives working the case, including Paquette (the pretty but not especially talented Olivier Martinez), are deemed to be in need of some assistance by their FBI trained boss Hugo Leclair (Tcheky Karyo). Cue one FBI expert in all things gruesome - Illeana Scott (Jolie) - a tough and accomplished investigator with an almost supernatural ability to get into the mind of a killer and decrypt his twisted behaviour.

    With only enough time for a brief argument with the surly Canadian cops, Illeana is soon interrogating art dealer James Costa (Ethan Hawke), a man who has just witnessed the gruesome murder of the latest victim of the serial killer. Through the investigations of Scott it becomes apparent that the killer is doing more than just murder his victims, he is assuming their identity too...literally Taking Lives. Illeana enlists the help of Costa, getting him to act as bait in trying to tempt the killer into the open, and the waiting arms of the Canadian police. Of course, as is always the way with brilliantly twisted serial killers, all does not go to plan.

    Look, this film is by no means terrible - it is just a fairly derivative thriller. It contains nothing truly special...it's just another genre film in an increasingly tired genre. The Canadian cops resent the presence of the FBI agent. The FBI agent's abilities are seemingly light years ahead of her Canadian counterparts. There's the obligatory appearance of the increasingly type-cast Kiefer Sutherland. There is the requisite romantic sub-plot with an unnecessarily graphic sex scene so Ms. Jolie can get her kit off. There are numerous bait-and-switch moments through the story and the inevitable plot twists - most of which I found to be telegraphed way too far in advance. Taking Lives: Special Director's Cut is worth a rental, or perhaps even a purchase if you really must own every movie starring the pouty-lipped one. In this incarnation the film features around five extra minutes of "frightening and edgy" footage not seen in the theatrical release. This apparently amounts to seeing more of Angelina Jolie's lady bits and a lot more gore in the death of (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Martin's mother - Gena Rowlands in the elevator. Just don't expect too much in the way of imagination or ingenuity and this will fill a cold, rainy evening just fine.

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Transfer Quality


    The overall video transfer of this film is very good.

    The movie is presented in an anamorphic aspect ratio of 2.40:1 which is a tad wider than the 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio.

    Sharpness is generally satisfying although there is some (probably deliberate) grain to soften the image in middle-distance shots at times.

    Black levels are always solid and there is usually a fair degree of detail present in the shadows. On occasion the black levels overwhelm the shadow detail a little and some detail can be lost (in dark clothing for example). Colours are very solidly rendered although the palette is quite stylised - once again a la Se7en. Gloomy greens and earth tones tend to dominate the palette but add to the atmosphere of the film quite well. There are also some nicely vivid primaries on occasion, but overall there is a moody, almost dour feel to the image. Skin tones look natural throughout.

    The transfer has no problems with MPEG artefacts. Aliasing was totally absent on my set-up. There is a small amount of edge enhancement present from time to time, visible as a halo around characters, but this is not distracting even on a large projected image.

    The transfer is very clean. Unsurprisingly given the very recent vintage of the film, there are no significant film artefacts present but some white flecks do appear briefly.

    The English subtitles are quite well timed, easy to read and only drop a few words and phrases for the sake of brevity. They certainly allow you to follow the plot perfectly well. The Hard of Hearing subtitles add appropriate audio cues and dialogue attribution through the film and are also well produced (even if containing the odd spelling mistake).

    This is a single sided, dual layer (RSDL) formatted disc, with the layer change mildly noticeable at 46:53.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is pretty good.

    There is a single English audio track for the film, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 384 kbps. It is free from significant problems in the way of hiss, pops or dropouts. The dialogue is generally clean enough, but the French accents of some of the cops does make it difficult to make out every word at times. Overall I found this to be a fairly quiet transfer and it benefits from being turned up a little past normal reference levels. Audio sync was generally fine throughout.

    Original music is credited to the accomplished Philip Glass whose other work includes Secret Window and Candyman amongst an impressive resume. The orchestral music does its job more than adequately, with cellos and other deep strings lending a suitably ominous and mysterious vibe as appropriate for the subject matter. The use of stabbing strings at the apposite moments provides a suitable jolt to the senses on occasion.

    The dialogue is soundly anchored in the centre speaker, and is complemented by some nice stereo spread across the main front channels. There is a reasonable ambient presence from the effects speakers with effects such as rain and traffic noise being heard when required. There is some use of locational surround effects and occasional front-to-rear panning (from helicopters and the like). The score also makes some use of the surround channels and overall it is a fairly satisfying soundstage.

    There is a quite substantial presence from the subwoofer, with noticeable bass activity cropping up throughout the movie. Deep LFE is present (during explosions and car chases for instance) but is never overwhelming. Overall the subwoofer provides a bit of bass punch where appropriate without becoming ostentatious.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are of reasonable quality, but fairly uninspiring and not exactly overwhelming in quantity.


    The animated main menu is accompanied by some suitably evocative sound bites from the various characters in the film, lending a spooky feel to the DVD from the second you pop it into the player. It allows the options of playing the feature, selecting one of a robust twenty-nine chapter stops, subtitle activation, plus access to the following features:


    Crime Lab: A Taking Lives Documentary is divided into four segments. These fairly small featurettes (with subtitles available) can be played individually or sequentially with a "Play All" feature which is always a nice touch. They are all presented at 1.29:1 with letterboxed film inserts and an audio track in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented 16x9 enhanced at 2.39:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps and running for 2:20.

Gag Reel

    This short (2:47) collection of bloopers seems strangely out of place on such a disc - but it's here with a jaunty organ accompaniment anyway! Presented letterboxed and with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of this film appears to be substantially the same as our own in the Special Director's Cut guise. There is also a separately available full screen version, which appears to be the standard theatrical release. If you absolutely must, buy whichever version can be found for the least dosh.


    Taking Lives: Special Director's Cut is another in a long line of not-quite-good-enough serial killer thrillers. It seems Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs have spoiled us, and with Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke as the main protagonists there is not quite enough star power on show to carry the mediocre plot through the duration of this flick. Not awful...but awfully predictable. Worth a rental probably.

    The 2.40:1 video transfer is very good.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfer is good.

    Extra features are, like the main feature, totally predictable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Monday, September 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880 upconverting DVI player, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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