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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Taken

MOVIE REVIEWS

TAKEN (2009)

Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Katie Cassidy, Famke Janssen, Xander Berkeley, Olivier Rabourdin, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Holly Valance, Goran Kostic, Rasha Bukvic, Helena Soubeyrand, Gérard Watkins and Camille Japy.

Screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.

Directed by Pierre Morel.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox.  93 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

 

Taken

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.

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Copyright ©2009   PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 19, 2009.

 

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