Bryan (Liam Neeson) has recently retired from his job working for the government and is attempting to make up for time lost with Kim (Maggie Grace), his teenage daughter. But when she takes a trip to Paris she is abducted, along with with her best friend, mere hours after getting off the plane. An Albanian crime ring now has her and her friend, and they intend on selling them to the highest bidder. Bryan now has 96 hours to locate and rescue his daughter, or statistically, Kim will spend the rest of her life forced into prostitution, forever lost to the foreign slave trade.I am sure that by now you have heard at least one person talk about what a fun, ass-kicking film this is, so now with it out on DVD and Blu-Ray, you get to hear it again.
The film settles right on its tracks when Bryan, who listened to the entire kidnapping of his daughter via a cellphone, tells his daughter’s abductors “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.” He is met with a pause, and then the reply, “Good Luck.”
It is at this point that you know that it is not Bryan that needs all the luck. You know that Bryan will look for him, will find him and will kill him. Taken is THAT type of movie. It is not one in which you are wondering IF he will succeed, but rather a film in which you enjoy watching HOW he will succeed. And let me state, you will enjoy every punch Bryan delivers to every henchmen in the film as he single-handedly takes on foreign slave traders in his efforts to rescue his daughter.
Directed by Pierre Morel (District B13), Taken is a surprisingly effective action film even though the story, written by action veterans Luc Besson (District B13, Transporter) and Robert Mark Karmen (The Karate Kid, The Fifth Element) is thinner than rice paper. Morel and Besson last paired up to deliver the free running, parkour-fest, District B13 and Taken shows what a great team these two make, delivering one of the better action films I have seen in recent memory. After some disappointing ventures into the revenge, man-on-a-mission efforts this year (Max Payne, Death Sentence) it was a pleasure watching Liam Neeson beat the living crap out of some nasty people from the bottom rungs of the slave trade organization all the way to the top. You want to see these people get their comeuppance, and by God do they ever get it.
In the beginning of the film, you find that Brian has retired from a government job he describes as a “preventer” who “prevents bad things from happening“. All he wants to do now is focus spending any time he can with his daughter, who just turned 17 and no longer the little girl he once knew. This is a bit difficult for him, as his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) has remarried and through some pretty good use of dialog, the viewer easily figures out the strained dynamics between him, his ex and her new husband along with the conflicts that have arisen from Bryan trying to wedge himself into their lives so late in the game. But you can also see that he has always loved his daughter and is now truly sacrificing to be close to her and leave his old life behind. But Bryan’s old job wasn’t behind a desk, and when he takes a quick job with his old buddies, providing security for a popular pop-artist, you get a quick glimpse of Brian’s real job skills that include a lot of bone snapping.
Morel keeps the film lean, never pausing the action long enough to question much, most of the non-action sequences remain at the beginning of the film as you are introduced to the main characters. Luckily, this movie is from Bryan’s point of view. No time is wasted on scenes of the daughter trying to escape or cope with her predicament. No unnecessary time wasted with the fretting ex-wife or any type of sub-plot. The film is dedicated solely to Bryan’s actions. And speaking of his actions, they are BRUTAL. Played convincingly by Neeson, Bryan is a juggernaut. Like a steely-gazed speedboat equipped with two-tons of ass-kicking and a salvo of knuckles, he simply moves forward, full speed and unwavering toward his target. What consequences arise from his wake means naught to him as the only direction he is looking is straight ahead.
There are a few instances in the film in which Bryan does things not normally expected in films of this nature, especially with a PG-13 rating, and may surprise even the most jaded action-film veteran. Things like extreme torture, the shooting of innocent people, and even shooting people in the back. Morel and Besson have created a character that has the fighting tactics of Jason Bourne, the luck of James Bond and the pit bull tenacity of Creasy in Man on Fire. You will see comparisons of all of those films, but I think Taken may have broken the record for “One Man In A Film Beating The Crap Out Of Bad Guys In 90 Minutes”. These action and fight scenes are quick, violent and to the point. As is the norm with action films these days, the shaky cam is here. Personally, if used right, I have no issues with it. But when done wrong, it is nothing more than a distraction. Luckily, in Taken, Morel shows how to use it correctly and effectively. The scenes are never confusing and pack quite a satisfying punch. I don’t think one baddie in close proximity to Bryan did not end up dead, maimed, shot or unconscious…all having their heads slammed into something first.
If you get the chance, take the time to check out Taken. The ball gets rolling quick enough, and even with some plot conveniences and action genre staples that border on being cliche, Taken still offers a very likable protagonist, bad guys that you will hate, and a good hour of enjoyment as you watch Bryan put his boot in the ass of every single one of them. No matter the 007-ish way Brian seems to get out of situations, you will root for him. Because of the reasons behind Kim’s abduction and the people behind it, along with Bryan’s guilt for not being there for her as a child, Bryan’s journey towards his daughter and the pain he inflicts are both extremely satisfying. You will cheer every time Bryan turns a man into a crumpled paper ball or a block of Swiss cheese, you will wish Bryan had given them an extra throat chop, or one more exit wound. I never thought I would be saying that a Liam Neeson character was one of my favorite action characters this year, but that’s exactly what I’m saying. Very enjoyable film and highly recommended.