There’s a new action star in town and it isn’t anyone you would immediately suspect. Does the name Liam Neeson ring a bell? Yes, the same guys who has primarily played the nondescript role for the majority of his career has found his John McClane as Bryan in the French action, quasi-thriller Taken.
Surprisingly, it isn’t as bad as you may think . . .
Neeson is a retired CIA operative trying to piece together his broken family. After his intense career, his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) has left him and remarried and he’s all but a stranger to his 17 year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). He finds the only way to reconnect with her and make peace with his ex-wife is to go against his better judgment and allow for Kim to travel to France with her girlfriends. He should have stood his ground though, because shortly after landing in the City of Lights, Kim and her friend are kidnapped by Albanians and sold as sexual playthings to the fabulously rich and the insanely powerful.
What follows next is a nice change of pace (the broken family man shtick gets old quick) as Bryan hauls ass to Paris to begin his hunt for the abductors. He dons his Sherlock Holmes hat and cape, and conducts some impressive detective work (which is sprinkled with some extreme luck). First, he goes to the kidnapping location and gets led to the man responsible for setting the girls up. Next, using his contacts in the French police he makes his way to a sex camp which in turn leads to a holding/drug house which leads to another link in the chain which invariably leads to another link (I don’t want to give it all away). What’s important is at each stop Bryan beats the living shit out of everyone within reach. Some of it is completely far-fetched (fighting a roomful of thugs armed with semi-automatic weapons unarmed) and some of it is pain-wretchingly real (anyone care for some home-brewed electrocution?).
Neeson does an admirable job as Taken‘s human battering ram (undoubtedly some of his skill comes from what he learned on the set of Batman Begins). I must say, he carries himself well for a 56 year-old man. His moves are not as precise or as crisp as what I’d expect from the ass-kicking hero, but they’re good enough to get by with. Everyone else in the film is a throwaway napkin. Director Pierre Morel could have switched them around or substituted monkeys in their place without causing much of a problem since, aside from from the beginning of the movie, there is very little interaction between characters. The only thing missing was the wise-cracking remarks that are staples in the “kick ass and ask questions later” type of movie. But while they were notably absent, I can’t say I missed them a whole lot (probably due to the fact that these “witty” one-liners have steadily gotten worse and worse).
So its no Die Hard. So what – nothing is. It’s no James Bond flick either. What Taken is, is a good middle of the road action movie, that is on par with the likes of Seagal’s and Snipe’s finest (i.e., Under Siege and Passenger 57). It also proves to the rest of us (mostly me) that there is more to France than fine wines, croissants and surrender flags.