Hunt. Find. Kill. Taken, or as I refer to it, the poor man’s Man On Fire opened this weekend, and boy is it dark! Can it stand up to all of Oscar season’s art house fare? Let’s see! Liam Neeson stars as ex-special forces/CIA/FBI/secret service “preventer” Bryan Mills. It’s never really elaborated on exactly what he used to do, but whatever it was, it required a degree in badassery from Badass University. And judging from his leather jacket and scratchy voice, Liam Neeson graduated summa cum laude. After his daughter is kidnapped in Paris by a prostitution ring, he’s there, huntin’ down the bad guys and gettin’ what’s his. If any of you have seen the commercials, it looks really good. What? There’s an actual movie that fills up another 90 minutes? Crap. (spoilers abound!)
What I liked about this movie: There’s one cool scene where Liam Neeson stabs some greasy European in the legs with nails, to which he attaches a car battery, then things get awesome. Hmmm. Yeah. That’s about it.
What bugged me about this movie: It’s true that women are kidnapped, drugged, and forced into prostitution. It’s a real thing, and has the potential for a really good story. Taken “took” (ZING!) that premise, and filled it with a bunch of unbelievable plot contrivances and action movie cliches. First, he lets his daughter, who’s 17, go to Paris for the summer with only her best friend? Granted, he thinks it’s a bad idea, and doesn’t have full custody of her, but still. He’s spend his entire adult life fighting communists and terrorists and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but withers under Famke Janssen’s stare? I don’t get it. And he arrives in Paris with nothing but a can-do attitude, and works his way up to the top of this international criminal organization, all inside of two days, which, of course, was more than enough time for the bad guys to turn his daughter into a coked-out slut.
Something one reviewer said that made a lot of sense to me was that this movie was below Liam Neeson. This is Oskar Schindler. This is Jean Valjean. This is Qui-Gon Jinn the future Abraham Lincoln. Seeing him running around popping bad guys, and all under an hour and a half, felt like sort of a cop-out. What’s really funny is that his role isn’t exceptionally well-written, and he still looks akward playing it. And the rest of the cast ain’t doing him any favors, either.
Maggie Grace, who’s almost ten years older than the girl she’s playing, feels more like a caricature of a teenage girl than an actual teenage girl. That’s not too surprising. Unrealistically written kids are a pox on modern American films. A pox, I say! Famke Janssen delivers and unmemorable performance as Neeson’s ex-wife, who when he finally brings his daughter home, has little more to say than, “I owe you one, k?” If this movie is the sort that interests you, Denzel Washington’s Man On Fire is much better. You can skip this one without feeling like you missed anything. C