Taken (Movie Review)

Note: I planned to review The Reader next, but it's just too insubstantial for me to even care to review it.

Taken

Liam Neeson is unstoppable in Taken, perhaps even a bit too badass for the story to handle. He darts around Paris busting up prostitution rings, mowing down enough people to populate a small village during every violent encounter. He hardly ever takes a hit, and when he does it might as well be on sufferance. The only characterization Liam Neeson has outside of searching for his daughter is that he could very well be human, but I remain unconvinced because the human form cannot contain such volumes of testosterone, scotch, and awesome. He never sweats, for one thing. The tendency for modern films to dip their action protagonists in vegetable oil and Sprite to have their actors beam enticingly in flickering incandescent lights is strangely absent. There may even be a minor clause in Liam Neeson's contract stating that he can never bleed.

The plot of Taken is embarrassingly straightforward: Liam Neeson is a somewhat overprotective father who lets his daughter run off to Europe with her slutty best friend so they can follow U2 around on tour. As the two arrive in Paris, a crew of Albanian's break into their penthouse suite and abduct the girls as slaves for their prostitution ring. The reasoning for this business strategy is solid gold: It's cheaper to just kidnap them when they're already in the country than it is to import them from the States. Luckily for Neeson though, premium merchandise is kept separate from promiscuous garbage in most sex rings, so while the slutty friend pays the price for bring unable to keep her legs together, Neeson's daughter fetches a high price and lucrative customers for keeping her chastity belt on. This buys him time as the rich and famous empty their international bank accounts.

As far as no-nonsense action flicks go, Taken is one of the better ones in recent memory. Depth is cut in favour of frequent efficient fisticuffs, and it works. Liam Neeson kicks ass at a construction site, at a fancy shindig, on a boat, etc. and never does he suffer any significant physical damage. This might confuse the average viewer who is used to seeing their protagonist get momentarily bitched around before ultimately and inevitably triumphing, but this would be more incongruous than anything else. Liam Neeson is a professional (albeit recently retired) killer who is taking on hoards of largely incompetent henchmen who were rejected from all the other crime syndicates for supreme idiocy and possessing the firearm accuracy of a blind stormtrooper. The only reason the action feels a bit iffy is because the odds are unfair, not because it's inherently preposterous (although it momentarily can be).

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To be entirely honest, €500,000 is a bit too rich for my blood...

A compromise has been made regarding the screenplay though. Luc Besson, responsible for writing throngs of obscure French cinema and The Transporter series, misses ample opportunities for tongue-and-cheek one liners a la Die Hard or Lethal Weapon. Lord only knows why, but apparently a screenwriter is only totally serious and legitimate if they treat comedy as second rate entertainment. A lighter tinge would've done wonders to mollify Neeson's somewhat sadistic demeanour, and if nothing else it would've turned the film into something raucously entertaining. It's a sorely missed golden opportunity, especially when the cinematography sets it up all so well.

Taken is entertaining but ultimately lacking, which is characteristic of virtually everything Besson is attached to. Unfortunately, the writing is far too melodramatic to mix well with the excellent action and cinematography. Nonetheless, the film is a considerably short ninety minutes which means you won't be able to stay mad at it for too long. If you consider yourself an action connoisseur, you'll enjoy this brisk and brief adventure in retribution. It's just a shame there's not a whole hell of a lot for anyone else.

I have to say, I usually prefer some depth in my movies.
Then again, I don't actually like movies, except Serenity, which was like God in audio/visual form.
It was a pretty nice review, though. Not enough time spent describing how awesome Liam Neeson is, but I'm glad someone else noticed the whole "action heroes need to sweat enough to fill a pool" thing.
EDIT: Oh god guys I am almost at 1000 posts what the hell is wrong with me why don't I have a life.

fullmetalangel:
It was clear and concise at least.

I find it funny you said that since I was frantically editing it as I received the first two comments.

MaxTheReaper:
It was a pretty nice review, though. Not enough time spent describing how awesome Liam Neeson is.

You can never spend enough time describing how awesome Liam Neeson is. I never once mentioned his characters name because I just assumed he was being himself and the film was a documentary.

My friend said he saw it, and said it was decently entertaining. Who knows what that means from him though.
Anyway, I found your review quite good. I am not sure whether I am going to see it or not. Maybe the flee market has it...

Maet:

fullmetalangel:
It was clear and concise at least.

I find it funny you said that since I was frantically editing it as I received the first two comments.

MaxTheReaper:
It was a pretty nice review, though. Not enough time spent describing how awesome Liam Neeson is.

You can never spend enough time describing how awesome Liam Neeson is. I never once mentioned his characters name because I just assumed he was being himself and the film was a documentary.

Sir, I do believe I need to buy you several rounds of particularly expensive drinks for that statement.
Right after I finish laughing.
Not because it was untrue, mind.

Nice review. Personally, i loved Taken. While i disagree with what you've said i'll die to defend your right to say it.

Anyway, as said, i love that movie, (made sure to pirate it as soon as i got home from the cinema). I recommend it to anyone looking for something that's not too heavy... basically the equivalent of an airport novel... like something by Nelson DeMille or Tom Clancey... except in movie form.

I think you did a very good job. I liked the humor you used in the first paragraph, particularly Liam Neeson's "can't bleed" clause. Excellent work, and very indepth.
oh come on Max, being close to 1000 posts doesn't mean you don't have a life. . . well unless you got to 1000 posts in a span of a few weeks, than yeah you don't have a life.

A great review, as usual. I'm just kind of let down - judging from the trailers, I was hoping this movie would be more than just a mindless action flick. I just consider Liam Neeson to be a quality actor who wouldn't be in just any fluff (although, I should really reassess that, what with The Phantom Menace and The Haunting...). But, if I watch it with your review in mind and appreciate it for what it is, then I'll probably enjoy it.

MaxTheReaper:
I have to say, I usually prefer some depth in my movies.
Then again, I don't actually like movies, except Serenity, which was like God in audio/visual form.

You, me... we'd get along XD Serenity really is Godlike.

Now, to be on topic, I was thinking of seeing the movie. And now... I'm still debating. Excellent review, you basically said all that needed to be said, but I don't know whether I want to spend the money for a staight forward action flick when I could just watch Die Hard or the Bourne movies, which have comedy and depth, respectively.

I liked Taken a lot. It was silly in parts, certainly, but worth definitely the price of admission to see Liam Neeson kick arse and ooze awesome for 90 minutes. He was like some kind of one man army.

Ace review, as always.

I saw this movie a few nights ago, and thought it was well worth the price of admission (I was paying via a gift card though, so take that for what it's worth). Liam Neeson was intimidating, many many people died, and it was over rather quickly. My wife thought it was "amazing" but I really just think of it as a good solid action flick where an actor I wouldn't have expected acts like a badass.

your review made it sounds interesting, and I think I will go see it. then I shall decide whether I should believe your reviews.

I liked it simply because it was Liam Neesons beating up or murdering every criminal in Paris. Really, while it won't win film of the year, it was definitely worth it.

 

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