Taken won’t be in theaters until this Friday. Don’t ask me how I saw it before it was released – a journalist never reveals his sources. (That’s right, I called myself a journalist. Deal.)
Before getting into Taken, let me start by saying that I love revenge films. Loooove them. Someone done horribly wrong by others, only to dust him or herself off and commit calculated, poetic (and sometimes brutal) justice on the wrongdoers.
Which brings us to Taken.
• Divorced father and newly retired US intelligence operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) struggles to stay connected with teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), who’s living with his frosty ex Lenore (Famke Jenssen) and her current, super-rich husband, Stuart (Xander Berkeley).
• To help gain his daughter’s favor and come off as a “cool dad,” Bryan reluctantly agrees to let Kim go to Paris with her best friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy). But soon after arriving at their Paris apartment, the girls are abducted while Kim is talking to Bryan via cell phone.
• Bryan records the kidnappers’ conversations through his phone and enlists former intelligence colleague Sam (Leland Orser) to help him identify the men. Sam says that based on their dialect, they’re from a region of Albania known largely for dealing in the trafficking of women, aka the sex trade.
• Bryan immediately hops Stuart’s private plane to Europe to gather clues to his daughter’s captors and her whereabouts, enlisting the help of a few old contacts along the way.
Okay, first observation about Taken: Neeson kicks a lot of bad-guy ass. No exaggeration, he gives Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne a run for his money. And with nearly every bad guy he took out, I found myself enjoying him lay waste to these thugs who dared take his child. (Now that I have kids, my feeling was probably even more intensified.)
Director Pierre Morel (with a quick, clever script by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen) delivers a taut 90-minute thriller, yet he still takes time to set up the relationships between father and daughter before the proverbial sh*t goes down. He keep things moving briskly, with nary a wasted moment of film time. Every scene matters.
A couple nits:
• Neeson’s trail of ass-kicking does get a bit much after the first 20-odd bad guys are killed off (chop chest, break arm, ram head into object, repeat). And the finale does play a bit like a video game, with Neeson wasting henchmen one by one on his way to confronting the big boss.
• It was also hard at first to buy 25-year-old Maggie Grace playing quite a teenager (especially after seeing her as an adult on Lost) – but she does such a good job of conveying the mannerisms and quirks of a 17-year-old girl that it quickly became a non-issue.
Still, never mind the nits -- Taken is a gratifying movie experience. It serves its purpose, and I mean that as a compliment. You sit down, it rocks your world for an hour and a half, providing plenty of action without dumbing things down, and you leave satisfied.
Taken opens in theatres January 30.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
Will your kids want to watch it?I could see teenagers wanting to check out Taken after seeing the trailer, but I would steer your kids clear of the film if they’re younger than that. The film is rated PG-13, and that’s a “hard” PG-13: There’s a lot of hand-to-hand violence, gunplay, and several nasty killings – and in one sequence Neeson tortures a bad guy via long metal spikes and electrical currents. Its brutal yet largely bloodless violence reminded me of the PG-13 tone of The Dark Knight and that film’s level of sadistic yet crimson-free content.
Will your FilmMother like it?• Guys, this is the movie you watch when it’s your turn to pick. Some FilmMothers may also enjoy Taken, but others may be put off by the abduction of a child and the path of violence that follows.
• And to any FilmMothers reading this: Definitely recommend Taken to your man if he’s looking for something to see on his own or with the guys.
* Director: Pierro Morel
* Screenwriters: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen
* Stars: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Jenssen, Xander Berkeley, Leland Orser
* MPAA Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and torture, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language)
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