Taken (2008) – Movie Review
Written by: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by: Pierre Morel
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Xander Berkeley, Leland Orser
My Advice: Matinee if you’re into it
Bryan Mills (Neeson) is an ex-government badass who became ex because his career of stomping bad guys cost him his family. His wife, Lenny (sorry, it’s Lenore now–played by Janssen), is now with Stuart (Berkeley), a guy who is Perfect. And Kim (Grace), his seventeen-year-old daughter, is a bit of a spoiled brat considering she lives in a mansion and has less rules since Mom’s in charge and step-Dad wants to be the good guy. So that’s why circumstances conspire to get her and a friend off to Paris for a fun teenage vacation, that goes awry when both girls are kidnapped. This, needless to say, pisses Bryan off a bit. And he shrieks into action.
Writing a review about this film is difficult, because it’s so simple. Not simple in a bad way, because sometimes you don’t need a lot of crazy twists and turns. Sometimes you want a film that with its trailer (and even its poster, see above), it gives you exactly what it bills itself as. The trailer and poster tell me that this film is Liam Neeson providing beatdowns to anyone who stands in between him and his kidnapped daughter. And the film is exactly that and no more. The plot will serve to give Neeson people to punch. The characters will either watch Neeson punch or get punched themselves. Paris exists in this film to provide an arena for Neeson to punch things. If you came expecting another film, it’s not the film’s fault you were disappointed.
But I came expecting this film and so I was quite happy. Neeson is a badass and he’s been spending far too much time playing lions and gurus and such. He needed to pick up a gun and start kicking some ass. He makes for a believable retired operative who is able to use his brain most of the time and his boot in your face the rest of the time. And Neeson can do cool and intense, which is exactly what the film needs. And he gets moments to really turn on the acting, like right after his daughter’s taken and right before he goes into overdrive.
The rest of the cast exists either to assist or try to hinder Neeson, except for Maggie Grace, the daughter, who’s there to cry and freak out and be taken. So she’s fine. Jannsen is there to play Queen Bitch and Berkeley is there to be the Other Dad (without the eye-buttons), so they’re both fine. Really, you could have nearly anybody in those roles as long as your lead could provide the beatdowns. And it’s always good to see Leland Orser in anything.
If anything, I will say that I can’t wait for fight scenes to go back to being fight scenes instead of exercises in jumpcutting and madness. Even if we pared down the cutting to about half, we’d still get the frenzy the directors seem to want and yet also get the, you know, visuals of buttkicking that we crave. So that would be helpful.
Could you catch this on the small screen and not feel cheated? Sure. But it was such a good time I figure if you could use a good time, you could do a lot worse than to catch this. Hell, I’d like to see Neeson reprise the character for more asskicking. Have him go into business with his friends retrieving other kidnap victims–works for me.