Taken is the film for you if you simply love Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme flicks and are constantly bemoaning the fact that they have been relegated to direct-to-DVD and made-for-TV projects. If you, however, want more out of a film than pace, so-so action, and a high body count, you’re going to be disappointed.
For those of you who haven’t seen the trailer, Liam Neeson stars as a retired spy trying to reconnect with his estranged 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) who wants his permission to travel to France for the summer with her best friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy).
Of course knowing the hidden dangers in such a trip Bryan is reluctant to let his daughter go. That is until he’s guilted into agreement by his ex-wife (Famke Janssen, in full-on bitch mode) only to have his daughter and her friend kidnapped hours after they touch down in Paris. Note – never trust your ex-wife.
After the initial 20-minute lead-in what follows is a well-paced 70-minute thriller as as Bryan makes logic leaps (some reasonable, some less so), cajoles and threatens old friends for help, and leaves destruction and twisted bodies in his wake. Note – if commiting a major crime do it in France where the police are slow, dimwitted, easily manipulated, and all on the take.
Though the emotion Bryan experiences comes off as quite real, it’s the only aspect which does. This is the kind of film where the hero can knock out a baddie with a single punch, blow up buildings, “heroically” torture evil-does for information, and even shoot a cop’s wife while blackmailing him, all in the name of his mission, and never have to face any consequences. Note – learn that move to knock-out bad guys with one punch, and how to take down a room of armed enemies without getting hurt.
One inherent problem with casting Neeson is his age and lack of martial arts training or fighting ability. The solution director Pierre Morel comes up with is to quick-cut all action scenes together to the point where the only thing seen on the screen are blurs of action. The attempt is to make Neeson’s character look bad ass, the result is to give the audience a headache. Note – remember to take aspirin to Morel films in the future.
And let’s face it, the story isn’t exactly new. The film liberally borrows from many thrillers and action films (most notably Commando, Trade, and Frantic) without adding anything new to the proceedings. To hide the fact that we’ve seen this all before the action and suspense is amped-up to 10, which results in a fun roller coaster ride (as long as you never look down to realize the car you’ve strapped yourself into is only barely hanging onto the tracks). Note – man, I want to watch Commando now.
Taken has a boring set-up and a trite ending, but the middle of the film (if you set your brain in neutral) can be some dimwitted pulse-poundin’ fun (and if you squint you’ll swear Seagal is taking apart baddies in trademark style). You can’t take something like Taken seriously, and I sure wouldn’t plop down $10 to see it in the theater, but for a late night double-header with something like Hard to Kill, Double Impact, or Roadhouse you might have a fun time. Just remember to make a booze run first.