Review: Taken

I was considering getting Max Action to write a review for this one, and he probably will soon enough, but in the meantime I’ll write down one of my own quick little ones to give you guys in the insight to Pierre Morrel’s action flick, Taken, starring Liam Neeson. This has personally been my favorite trailer for the last couple of months.

The film, as you can see in the trailer, is about a former government operative (Neeson) who specialized in “preventing” conflict. I suppose this would be most similar to Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne, but they never get into the details of what he did. There is a very amusing BBQ table talk scene (which in most movies occurs at a bar) between our hero Bryan Mills (exciting name) and his buddies from the Old Times talking about Beirut, but aside from that all we know is that Liam Neeson is a very dangerous man.

His weekend-visitation-custody daughter, Kim, asks a favor of him, and vis-a-vie her mother, Lenny (played by the milf-tascular Famke Jansen in this film, they would have had some good lookin kids…and this Katie kid is good looking. Kinda dumb and obnoxious but hey…OK so you think this parenthetical tangent is going off point but its ENTIRELY relevant to the plot because in about 2 sentences I’m going to tell you what happens, as you have seen in the trailer, and why it relates to the people in this movie being hot etc etc), tricks Bryan into signing a permission sheet to allow their daughter to go spend a month or something in Paris to see museums and stuff. Daddy Mills says “no way, the world is dangerous.” Mommy says “You’re being a paranoid jerk now sign the papers.” Then the daughter cries and screams I hate you at her dad and then he signs the papers. Too bad she was lying about seeing Museums and stuff in Paris. Dad finds this out later, however it is totally irrelevant because, as it goes with all Luc Besson produced films, the action stays in Paris. And why is that? Because paranoid secret agent Daddy was right! The world IS a dangerous place, and within 15 minutes of arriving in Paris, the daughter gets kidnapped by sex traffickers.

Moral of the movie: Never Question Liam Neeson. Now this has happened on multiple occasions in multiple films, and aside from the God-awful The Haunting, Liam Neeson has always been the unstoppable correctomundo dude. He’s been a Jedi, he’s saved thousands of Jews, and he’s even been the Christian God and Savior in Large Feline Form. For those who say “But he died in Batman Begins!” obviously you don’t know the REAL story about Ra’s Al Ghoul, which can be summed up in two words: Lazerus Pit.

Ahem, back to the Taken review…my apologies. Anyways, Kim gets kidnapped and its up to Bryan, under the approval (long overdue I’m sure) of Lenny and her new husband Stuart, to go get her. They have finally accepted the fact that only Bryan Mills is awesome enough, regardless of how much they hated the whole “Former CIA Guy” thing before, to rescue their daughter, and send no one else to get her. Now I get it– you have the best of the best already, why not send out milk cartons? Why not offer a ransom? (Stuart bought her, literally, a horse for her birthday. He owns oil or something). Hell if it’s sex trafficking why not go there and buy her with your oodles of cash? Nope, we need to send the Man himself after his daughter, using her as a human Macguffin so that he can mow down over 50 people, most of which with his bare hands. Don’t expect any growing relationship or revelations scenes like Besson’s best screen effort, and one of our personal favorites, Leon, to occur in this one. Just a lot of Sayoc Kali/Krav Maga styled Assassination killing strikes over and over again with a couple of chases thrown in between for good measure.

I’m going to be honest here, while I did over all enjoy the film, it pretty much ends up being a better-shot-modernly-edited Steven Segal film, only with a better actor at his most tepid level of performance. In some scenes he’s very good. My favorite moment of his, and I believe its in the above trailer, is when he is wrapping up a karaoke machine for his daughter. He is methodical, he is accurate, and he does not mess up like many people would. The gift is wrapped better than your grandmother could do it, because Bryan Mills is a very dangerous man, and what makes him dangerous is his 110% dedication to everything. However in some scenes, oddly enough the family ones, he is very…TV-dad-ish, and not strange in the least. Cut back to when he’s in ULTRA KILL MODE and he will beat women, destroy property, and as he threatens, “tear down the Eiffel Tower” to get his daughter back. If nothing else, this movie proves all of that to be true, and Neeson’s performance is at its best when he’s dishing out the goods. However, it isn’t exactly anything special, which is unfortunate.

So yes, Morrel and Neeson trust each other, but I think at some times this movie was a little too trusting. Released to the US a year later as PG-13 thriller along the lines of the Bourne films, the violence in this “revenge” film is very dulled down. Gunshots are not loud, punches have impact, but sometimes work too well, and the violence is mostly offscreen. This isn’t all a bad thing, of course, but I did expect a little more brutality than this in this sort of film. When your main character is a Very Dangerous Man, yes he should be able to go through people like butter, but at times Taken gets ridiculous. Liam Neeson literally defeats over 50 % of his opponents in one or two hits. Supposedly many of these people are very dastardly, and some of them should be high-ranking body guard types, much like himself, but they never put up a fight at all, whatsoever.

When James Bond does this, I expect it because he is the nation’s top, demigod operative. When Jason Bourne does this, he doesn’t expect it but demonstrates an art that he doesn’t want, one that twisted his brain to the tightest screw. Neeson’s character is almost too powerful for the movie to stay thrilling, and because of this we know he’s going to get his daughter back from the outset and it devolves into a “how many people CAN Neeson kill while getting his daughter back?” hypothesis, rather than a “How many people will he Have to kill?” as it was in the Old Days. The answer is, of course, “a lot,” but because we never see the majority of the violence or it is all so “BANG KNOCKOUT” styled, it doesn’t feel all that exciting at times. This becomes further flawed when he is finally trapped by the badguys and is saved by the world’s lamest Deus Ex Machina, and not by any part of his skills.

Don’t get me wrong though- the action is INCREDIBLY shot, Morrel will be a big name in action movies to come if he keeps it up, he simply needs to go back to his hard-hitting B13 routes and ditch the super-killer main characters. Have some fun Morrel! Don’t fall into the recent trend of super-agent-can’t-be-stopped that Craig and Damon have created. Christ I think even Statham took more damage in his last couple of films…

I will end this review simply stating I liked the movie, but I don’t think its as high caliber as I was hoping for. It flows very fast, has a great pace, some cool moves for the Kali/Arnis enthusiast, and Neeson does make a pretty cool action hero. The plot, even though I have made fun of it, doesn’t have any real gaping holes, it just doesn’t go past the level of “serviceable” either. Morrel’s best effort, District B13, was an example of a movie that does such a thing, and most of Besson’s work has been more than capable of that in the past. It’s time to kick it up a notch, guys. Go back to the drawing board and just add some meat to the bone you’ve structured so damn well!