Taken is sort of a
souped-up version of a terrific-but-mostly-forgotten 90s Roman Polanski
drama called Frantic with Harrison Ford. That film was about an
American doctor in Paris for a business conference when his wife is
kidnapped - so he has to troll through the back-alleys and night life of the
City of Lights in an attempt to find his wife. In Taken the
main character is a
super-spy rather than a doctor, his daughter is kidnapped rather than his wife and
there are more submachine guns - but otherwise the storylines dovetail pretty
impressively. There is even a nearly identical scene of the hero
tenuously climbing on the outside ledge of an apartment to break in.
However, it's a good story
idea and Taken - if not quite as well-made as Frantic - is
still a rousing action picture.
Possibly the biggest
surprise of Taken is the fact that Liam Neeson makes a kick-ass
action hero. He has worked in action films before (for example Star
Wars: The Phantom Menace and Batman Begins) but he has never
taken a formula hero role quite so blatant - and Neeson wears it well.
Truth is, he's probably a little bit too good an actor for this role, but
you can't really fault the filmmakers for overreaching. What might be
a smug, glib character in the hands of Bruce Willis or emotionless soldier
played by Sylvester Stallone now has a human pulse. The spy may be
supremely competent and maybe just a little too good at taking out gangs of
bad guys while getting barely a scratch, however Neeson gives the guy a
human quality which is vitally needed in order for Taken to work.
And work it does.
Taken may be a formula action pic, but it's got enough rough corners and
quirky sidetracks to make it consistently gripping.
Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a
man who has resigned from some sort of shadowy government job - we never
learn specifically who he worked for or what he did, but he was obviously in
covert ops of some sort - so that he can finally get to know his daughter
Kim (played by Maggie Grace of Lost). He has a frosty
relationship with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), who has remarried a
multi-millionaire, but Bryan is determined to finally be a part of his
little girl's life.
Therefore, when his wife
and daughter ask him for permission for the teen to go to Paris with a
friend on vacation, Mills overlooks his training and distrust of the world
and caves in to their wishes - against his best judgment.
His fears are justified
when soon after landing his daughter is kidnapped. Therefore he has
four days to fly to Paris and scour the Parisian underworld to save his
daughter and her friend from human trafficking and being forced into the sex
trade. Luckily, as he explains to one of her captors on the phone as
she is being taken, he has no money but he has a unique skills set which
makes him a nightmare to criminals of their sort.
The rest of the film
revolves around Mills looking through the low-life and high-life of Paris in
search of his girl. He picks his way through some of the most rundown
areas of the city to some of the most spectacular houses, picking up info
and killing bad guys everywhere he goes. Some of the detective work
seems a little too coincidental (is there really only one house in the
Paradis neighborhood of Paris that has a red door?), however most of the
action is fast-paced and fun.
Taken isn't going to
win Neeson any awards, but it is a very enjoyable diversion.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: February 19, 2009.