Taken: Liam Neeson Attempts to Elevate The Revenge Flick Genre
There’s a moment fairly early into Taken, where Liam Neeson hears his daughter being kidnapped on the phone, and the kidnapper picks up the daughter’s phone and starts breathing into it. Neeson then delivers the following monologue: “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.” The voice on the other end pauses, then says, “Good luck.” We then are immediately aware of what we’re in for– Neeson torturing and killing Euro villains for 75 minutes. By now, you already know if you’ll like this movie, so there’s not much of a point in reading further.
The plot is simple. Neeson is Bryan, a former CIA operative who has retired in order to try to be closer to his daughter. Unfortunately, his daughter is being taken care of by Lenore (Famke Janssen), his bitchy ex-wife, so times are hard. His daughter (Molly Grace) goes to Europe with a friend, and ignoring all logic, the friend tells the first cute guy right after they get off the plane that the two hot American girls will be alone in a flat for the next couple weeks. Naturally, they fall prey to a sex slave operation which kidnaps American tourist girls, drugs them up, and sells them to the highest bidder. Neeson works at a breakneck speed, since he’s told realistically he only has 96 hours if he ever wants to see his daughter again.
Breakneck is an appropriate word, since Neeson’s move of choice is the swift karate chop to the Adam’s apple. The hand-to-hand combat is handled pretty realistically, which may lend you to believe this film will be better than your typical brainless action film. Don’t be fooled– there are still scenes where Neeson is running through a room unarmed with 5 men with machine guns firing at him, and NOT A SINGLE BULLET grazes him (I racked my brain attempting to figure out the odds). Also, the improbability of one man being able to achieve everything he does is through the roof. Again, you likely know if you’ll like this film or not already, but I wanted to persuade those who are on the fence that this is not an elevation of the genre, merely another exercise.
The only elevation really comes from Neeson, who can deliver a monologue like the aforementioned with gravitas that most action stars can only dream of. He also seems believable as a seasoned action man, giving the film some credibility. However, the majority of the other performances are godawful, sweeping the rug out from under him. Maggie Grace looks 17? Alright, and Sophia Loren looks 30. Just because you make a girl hop around in Skechers doesn’t make her look younger. Finally, in what will certainly go down as one of the worst roles of 2009, Famke Janssen at least doesn’t ask for forgiveness as the horrendously one-note bitch ex-wife. Every single line she says is unforgivably mean, until the end, where she thanks her ex-husband. We don’t care though… we just want to see her get karate chopped in the Adam’s apple.