Sunday, February 1, 2009

Taken: Greasy Arabs and Corrupt Frenchmen

We were just talking about the revenge movie and whether they made 'em like they used to. And here comes Monsieur Morel (The Transporter) and Liam Neeson to put us a bad-guy slaughter-fest where the good guy can shoot innocent people and not only do you not mind, you see his point.

In a nutshell: Neeson plays "preventor" Bryan Mills who has retired from the CIA (?) to try to build a relationship with the daughter (Maggie Grace) he estranged through years of field work. His bitchy ex-wife (Famke Janssen) guilts him into letting said daughter go to Paris with wild friend (Katie Cassidy) and before you can say "Charles Bronson Lives", the two are kidnapped.

Now, here's the beauty of this: They're not kidnapped for ransom. The kidnappers are not desperate folk just trying to survive. Oh, no.

The kidnappers are white slavers who take young female tourists and drug them up and sell them to the sex trade.

I understand Fox toned the movie down for a PG-13, but it's bad enough. When Neeson starts killing people, you have no remorse. When he tortures people, you're thinking, "Well, good." As I say, he even shoots an innocent woman in the arm and your response is, "Yeah, that was necessary. For the greater good."

There's no remorse on Neeson's face at any point. Ever. It's almost comical.

And yet.

It's hard not to relate to his emotional state. The bad guys are well and truly scum. And, tragically, such people do exist as does the trade, though not with Western European tourists. (That, in a way, makes it all the scuzzier, since it implies a degree of control over things.) And if you're a parent, some part of you is going, "Yeah, that's about what I'd do. But I probably would've shot that guy a couple more times just to be sure."

No, the villains here are Greasy Arabs (and Albanians) and the corrupt French government. Kind of like Casablanca, if Ingrid Bergman had been kidnapped by Sydney Greenstreet.

Alongside the crispness of pace, the film benefits greatly from Mr. Neeson's performance: He moves seamlessly from concern over his daughter (even desperation) to cool professionalism. He doesn't do a lot of the angry grimace/grunt thing but stays cool and on top of things, even when machine-guns are spraying and he's outnumbered 12-to-1.

Not only does his paternal nature come through when he's with his daughter, it comes through when he's with others' daughters. At no point does he leer or touch inappropriately, and the screenwriters were wise enough not to try to shoehorn a romantic subplot in with one of the 20-something actresses.

I was also impressed by young Maggie Grace--who isn't that young at 24--but really was convincing as a 17-year-old, rather spoiled girl. Famke is, as always, convincing as a bitch, though she comes around a bit at the end.

As with most action pics, it gets a little silly at points. Once, early on, he tries to track down his lead and ends up with the gendarmes on his tail, yet we are not treated to how, exactly, he manages to evade them. At mid-point he kills five or six bad guys at once, though there is the element of surprise at least. Toward the end, he takes the mandatory bullet which barely slows him down.

There is a point where he does a moderate jump (by film standards) from a bridge to a boat and ends up with a limp for the rest of the movie (minus the parts where it's necessary for him not to have a limp, heh).

The Boy approved of the relative lack of superpowers and endorses the movie whole-heartedly. I thought some of the bullet spraying at the end stretched our hero's good fortune a bit thin.

Nonetheless, a good time. I think it's probably better for the edits and things left unshown. At about an hour-and-a-half running time, it's not too presumptuous either.

I advise any Albanians who see it not to take it too seriously, though.


  1. PG-13? Oh, good. My son wants to see this, and I really like Liam Neeson.


  2. Cool, I'll put this on my list.


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