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Worth A Look: 22.97%
Just Average: 6.76%
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5 reviews, 44 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Paris, je vais donner un coup de pied votre âne"
5 stars

If you are the type of person who judges a book solely by its cover, then I suspect that you have already written off the new action thriller “Taken” as some kind of disaster. After all, it tells a story that even those who don’t get out to the movies that often will find to be more than a little familiar, it stars an actor who is not necessarily known for his action chops and it is only debuting in these parts--after having already played all over the rest of the world--on a weekend when its target audience is presumably going to be too distracted by the hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl (despite the presence of the Arizona Cardinals as one of the competing teams) to even notice that it has been released. And yet, if you are that type of person, you would be making a huge mistake in dismissing it out of hand because this is the rare contemporary genre film that more than delivers the goods that it promises and what it lacks in dramatic innovation, it more than makes up for in energy, excitement and inspiration. Featuring 90-odd minutes of brilliantly staged set-pieces, breathless pacing and a central performance from Liam Neeson that is about a million times better than you might expect, this is anything but the kind of anonymous studio dump that you might expect it to be--in fact, it one of the most ruthlessly efficient and sheerly entertaining hardcore action films to come along in a long time.

Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, a seemingly meek and mild-mannered individual who has retired from his international job in order to settle down in Los Angeles in an effort to reestablish a relationship with his virginal 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), who is now living with his bitchy ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and her new husband, a guy who is so rich that he makes Charles Foster Kane look like some kind of small-time grifter. It turns out that Bryan worked for the C.I.A. as a “preventer”--the kind of guy who ruthlessly stops problems (and problem causers) before they can become problems--and while he may have been away from the action for a couple of years, the way that he deals with an attacker while helping a couple of associates work backstage security for a popular pop tart (Holly Valance) shows that his abilities have not atrophied at all. This is a good thing because before long, Kim goes off with a friend (Katie Cassidy) to spend the summer overseas--ostensibly to visit the museums of France but really to follow U2 as they tour Europe--and the two are kidnapped less than an hour after touching down in Paris, while Kim is on the phone with Bryan, no less. Using the information gleaned from what he overheard, Bryan determines that his daughter has been taken by Albanian gangsters who have been snatching nubile tourists from all over the world as part of an international white slavery ring and that he has 96 hours maximum to find her before she is transformed into a devirginized, drug-addled sex worker. (To be fair, there is a fairly good chance that this same outcome might have occurred if she had spent the summer following U2 as planned.) Bryan immediately jets off to Paris and the rest of the film shows him brutally working his way up the sleazo ladder from the Albanians who procure the girls to the police and government officials who turn a blind eye to the crimes to the slick businessmen who run the ring to the rich creeps who seek out their services in order to find his daughter and bring her home.

As I said, “Taken” is not exactly a film that is overflowing with originality--it is essentially one more run through the basic plot points of such classics as “The Searchers,” “Taxi Driver” and “Hardcore” with a dash of borderline xenophobia thrown in for good measure. What saves this film from being just another derivative piece of exploitation junk is the style and energy that co-writer/producer Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel (whose previous collaboration was the thrilling 2006 effort “District B13”) have invested into the otherwise familiar material. Although the vast majority of Besson’s seemingly endless output of films over the last few years, such as the “Transporter” films, have fused together outlandish stunts and goofy humor into pop-art epics that are like comic strips come to life in the best possible sense, “Taken” takes a more serious and straightforward approach to its material (possibly because the subject of human trafficking just isn’t that funny) by keeping both the jokes and the gravity-defying absurdities to a minimum. There are some laughs to be had, of course, but they are more along the lines of the kind of tension-releasing laughs that punctuate the action instead of mocking it. As for the fight scenes, Besson and Morel have stepped away from the delirious and elaborate wide-screen carnage of “District B13” in order to stage their action scenes here in a more intimate manner--most of the fights take place in small rooms or hallways and the climactic battle is done on a yacht--that accentuates the viciousness in ways that allow the blows to have maximum impact without slipping over the edge into outright sadism. (It is unlikely that any action buff is going to go home disappointed that there wasn’t enough brutality on display despite the fairly surprising PG-13 rating.) Another element that separates “Taken” from other action junk is the central performance from Liam Neeson as the father who will kick any and all ass necessary in order to rescue his daughter. At first, his casting might seem more than a little strange--after all, the idea of Oskar Schindler kicking ass does seem a bit odd--but he manages to pull it off wonderfully for a couple of reasons. For one thing, he manages to do the same thing that Matt Damon has done in the Jason Bourne films in that he has found a way to play his character so that his instantaneous transformations from an ordinary schnook into a ruthless killing machine are actually plausible. (I have no idea how much of what we see is Neeson himself and how much is the work of an army of stuntmen but it certainly looks for the most part as if Neeson is doing a lot of his own moves.) For another thing, when the action relents every now and then in order to bring on the occasional scene that involves actual acting, Neeson does an excellent job of investing his character with just enough personality and plausibility to make him seem more like a real person and less like an anonymous superman whose victory is never in doubt.

What “Taken” does have in common with many of Besson’s other creations is a high number of the kind of gotta-see moments that will leave even the most hardcore action junkies breathless with excitement both while watching them as they unfold and describing them to friends later on. There is the scene in which Neeson calmly explains over the phone to his about-to-be-kidnapped daughter what is going to happen to her and then just as calmly explains to her kidnapper what is going to happen to her. There is the airport smack down when Neeson runs down one of the low-level members of the trafficking organization in an effort to get some information. There is the scene in which Neeson offers his praises to the electrical grid of Paris for providing smooth and consistent power so that he can go about his “work.” There is the dinner that Neeson shares with a old colleague, now a high-ranking Paris police official, and his wife that ends on a most unexpected note. Finally, there is the whole boat climax in which Neeson methodically works his way through any number of bodyguards and closed-in spaces to get to his final target. Any one of these scenes would have been enough to make you average action film worth checking out--to have all of them together in the same movie makes “Taken” is absolutely exhilarating.

“Taken” does have a couple of hiccups early on--the ex-wife character is drawn so bitchily that it begins to strain credibility, though not as much as the sight of 25-year-old Maggie Grace playing a girl who has just turned 17--but once Neeson hits Paris in pursuit of his missing daughter, it, like its main character, develops a laser-like focus and intensity that grabs you and doesn’t let go until the end credits start rolling. This is a great action film--with the possible exception of “Wanted” (whose delirious excesses owe quite a bit to Besson’s past work), it is perhaps the best such film to come along since the last Jason Bourne movie--and it is a shame that Fox, in their infinite wisdom, appears to be dumping it by releasing it on a weekend when it is almost doomed to fail thanks to the weather and the Super Bowl. In that regard, let me just say that no matter how crappy the weather may be and no matter how wrapped up in the Super Bowl you may be (and unless you live in Arizona or Pennsylvania or are a Bruce Springsteen fan, you probably aren’t), “Taken” is the rare January release that is worth the time and effort and then some.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17351&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/30/09 00:00:00
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good action flick liam is cool 4 stars
2/25/15 stanley welles a brainless bilious mix of sentimentality and bone-cracking violence 1 stars
10/02/14 joey from brooklyn albanian mobsters! suck it! 5 stars
10/24/12 Charles Tatum Quick, and full of loopholes 3 stars
8/26/12 David Pollastrini A tension filled thriller. 4 stars
6/19/12 fartvenugen So bad. Seagal did this much better in the 80s. 1 stars
6/08/11 R.W. Welch Snappily paced actioner with sharp writing and acting. 4 stars
3/27/11 Ken I adore a good revenge movie. This was right up with Man on Fire 4 stars
2/03/11 Monday Morning Hey Lee, the plural "morons" doesn't get an apostrophe, you moron. 5 stars
9/22/10 bored mom It's Splinter Cell: The Movie. 4 stars
4/05/10 TreeTiger The best action/revenge movie I have seen in years! 5 stars
1/04/10 RLan If you like action movies, this is one you should see. 4 stars
7/25/09 Bryan Tough, well-acted suspense thriller. 4 stars
7/08/09 Jeff Wilder Not a bad action movie. But as far as thrillers of this type go Man On Fire was better. 3 stars
6/09/09 Lee moron's wrote it, directed it, watched it themselves and loved it. fucking moron's 1 stars
5/28/09 kitfo another paranoid fantasy about child abduction, how could a simple plot have so many holes? 2 stars
5/25/09 Anonymous. great action but not a great movie... 3 stars
5/25/09 Bnorm It was incredible how many people that old man killed. Liam Neeson was great 5 stars
5/24/09 Brandon Allin Exhilarating all the way through 5 stars
5/20/09 Kike Sosa Liam Neeson's my new definition of "BAD-ASS" 5 stars
5/08/09 Samantha Pruitt AWESOME! constant action, Liam Neeson kicks ass! 5 stars
5/04/09 Mr. White Who knew that throat punching would be this good! 5 stars
3/24/09 ravenmad Awesome!!! Wish it got more press. Human trafficking is a sad reality. 5 stars
3/18/09 Total Crap Way overrated, great action but forgettable. I feel like I've seen all this before. 3 stars
3/17/09 ES Very good movie, Bryan Mills is a machine 4 stars
3/14/09 mr.mike Pulse-pounding , with Neeson top notch. 4 stars
3/09/09 Monday Morning Best thriller I've seen in years. They didn't even need the car chase(s). 5 stars
3/05/09 Elaine Best movie ive seen in 2009! Made me cry, laugh, scared.. everything a movie should be! 5 stars
3/01/09 Aaron Women and hyper-sensative liberals hate this movie.....which means that it is awesome. 5 stars
2/28/09 g. Excellent film, Neeson is great. However Maggie Grace was horribly miscast. 5 stars
2/28/09 blah blah uncut version is fucking awesome and brutal 5 stars
2/14/09 Todddi I think i could have written that script 1 stars
2/14/09 Joey Schmaloney Great film! Uncompromising and brutal. Neeson gets what he comes for and deserves to. 5 stars
2/14/09 Jenny Enjoyed every minute. Nice to see the bad guys get what they deserve! No negotiations. 4 stars
2/12/09 Wil worth the theater ticket, better than jack bauer from 24 5 stars
2/09/09 Brian When people kidnapped Peter Lorre's kid they immediately gave her back. Now that's scary. 4 stars
2/08/09 KingNeutron Only movie Ive seen since Dark Knight that was worth the Theater $$! 4 stars
2/05/09 Man Out 6 Bucks About time someone pinned Albanian KLA terrorists 4 stars
2/04/09 Faraz J Not special in anyway. And i seem to have seen iit way before the release. 3 stars
2/03/09 Aesop Action. Adventure. Entertainment. What a concept, huh Hollywood? 4 stars
1/31/09 Alex Thorne brutal, nasty, unflinching, and brilliant for it 4 stars
1/31/09 Ming great thriller and lots of actions 4 stars
1/31/09 Jack Sommersby The best action-thriller in years and the outstanding Neeson's best performance. 4 stars
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  30-Jan-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 12-May-2009


  DVD: 12-May-2009

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Pierre Morel

Written by
  Luc Besson
  Robert Mark Kamen

  Liam Neeson
  Famke Janssen
  Maggie Grace
  Goran Kostic
  Katie Cassidy

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