Taken [movies]

By: E · February 2, 2009


Taken is about as by the numbers as you can get when it comes to a thriller/suspense /action movie. Its saving grace is its unmistakable sheen of experience, the kind of surehandedness that turns convenitonalism into familiarity making for an overall enjoyable ride. In the hands of action specialist Luc Besson, the man responsible for the Transporter movies, Unleashed, and the Fifth Element, and director Pierre Morel, the man who with Besson pulled off the action masterpiece District B13, Taken succeeds with some well thought out action scenes and a story with enough gravitas at its core to make up for the moments when the action inevitably sags.

Brian is a retired government operative, divorced from his wife and trying to make amends with his estranged 17 year old daughter. When his daughter decides to go to France for a summer, she’s kidnapped by Albanian women traffickers. Through his contacts, Brian discovers that he has 96 hours before she’s likely never heard from again. So he decides to basically go on a rampage through Paris to get his daughter back.

There’s nothing profound about this movie. Like I said, it’s a by the numbers action/thriller that works mainly because of the powerhouse of a performance Liam Neeson delivers as a father doing whatever it takes to get his daughter back. There’s nothing really grey about his performance, he’s a black and white guy who gets the job done, which is the reason that his wife and daughter left him in the first place. And while Brian is, well, not the most likable guy in the world, there’s a certain vindication in seeing his worst fears come true, and in getting to see the things that his wife and daughter found so detestable in him save the day.

Neeson is, in no uncertain terms, a bad ass in every imaginable way, and the action sequences that Morel and Besson compose for him manage to be both subdued with enough flourishes to make them pop off the screen without being absurd or over-the-top. It’s probably difficult to imagine what this film is exactly like, it’s not The Transporter. It’s a film that never creeps towards hammy irony, even though there are quite a number of moments where you will probably give an “OH SHIT!” in the theater. But more than the crazy moments, it’s the little details, the smoke rising from the gun in the light, the exact hand to hand combat strikes, or the different pitched gunshots from the varied pistols used. Really the only complaint I have about the action is the middle car chase, which kinda loses its geography at times, and is needlessly placed in a dirt pit.

Done on a production budget of $45M, Taken is a throwback to the 90’s era action movies that managed to be both kick-ass and serious, gloriously chauvinistic, and pointlessly violent and stylish. That it stars an aged Liam Neeson doesn’t change the fact that it could’ve easily starred Jean Claude Van Damme had it been made 15 years ago and been largely the same movie. And in an era where most action movies are subpar, it’s kind of a breath of fresh air to see something done so steadily, even if it’s nothing new under the sun.

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