**** (out of 5)
January 30, 2009
Liam Neeson as BRYAN MILLS
Maggie Grace as KIM
Katie Cassidy as AMANDA
Famke Janssen as LENORE
Xander Berkeley as STUART
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Pierre Morel
BY KEVIN CARR
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As a parent, I can relate well to almost any movie that shows someone trying to save their child, and “Taken” is one of those films that pushes all the right buttons.
The film tells the story of ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) who has changed careers to be closer to his seventeen-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Although he’s ridiculously overprotective, he allows Kim and her mother to talk him into letter her take a vacation to Europe with her friend. Once she arrives in Paris, Kim and her friend are targeted by an international sex slavery ring, kidnapping them right from their apartment.
Bryan then goes on the warpath, traveling to Paris and uncovering the people behind the human trafficking ring. He uses his old contact to track the kidnappers down and make them pay.
This film, which has been out in Europe for the better part of a year before hitting screens in the U.S., is partially the brainchild of Luc Besson, who gave use the “Transporter” movie series. Hopefully it does for Neeson as an action star what “The Transporter” did for Jason Statham here in the states. After all, Neeson proves to be a formidable opponent in this movie, and you can fully believe that he is able to crush the bad guys as seen on screen.
The traditional elements of filmmaking – story, plot characters – are decent enough, but not overly complex in this film. They serve as set-up to what becomes an intense and exciting action flick. Neeson, who is a fine actor, gives us a nice introduction to Bryan Mills, but actors like Famke Janssen as Kim’s mother and Xander Berkeley as her step-dad just phone in their performances.
Maggie Grace, whom many will recognize as the stuck-up rich girl from “Lost,” pulls off the look of peril a lot, but she lays things on a bit too thick when it comes to being a happy teenager. She acts more like a thirteen-year-old girl when she’s safe at home. It’s a good thing she pretty much disappears through most of the middle.
But no one should be seeing this movie for the acting. Rather, it’s the action that is key. Neeson’s character doesn’t just open up a can of whup-ass on the kidnappers. He opens up a whole bucket of whup-ass… nay, a whole barrel of whup-ass.
The real fun part of this film is the international cat-and-mouse chase. Sure, things are a bit far-fetched at times, and it’s quite unbelievable how he manages to track the bad guys down so quickly, but that’s okay. Neeson steps into the role as the vengeful father so well that you suspend all disbelief.
There are some production value problems with the film, which is surprising. Some of the cinematography looks bad, like it’s been shot with a consumer-grade camcorder. And the sound mix, at times, seems a little soft. However, these are small moments and generally easy to get past.
Being a parent myself, I was completely behind Neeson’s character, even when he was torturing the people who kidnapped Kim. After all, any parent will understand the no-holds-barred attitude you’ll take when somebody messes with your child.
Still, this movie does make me glad I have three boys and no girls yet. And I imagine that this film isn’t going to be helpful in kids getting their parents to allow them to go on a trip to Europe unchaperoned. But that’s just what makes it an effective movie, right?