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Taken (2009)

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Score: 8/10

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: January 30th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Pierre Morel Actors: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Anjul Nigam, Famke Janssen, Holly Valance


aken’s” greatest asset resides within the perfectly cast Liam Neeson and the deliberate build of his fascinatingly merciless character.  Rather than jump directly into the advertised plot, the film is careful to explore the anti-hero’s troubled relationships and hint at the dark past that allows him to transform into the ruthlessly efficient soldier requisite for the task at hand.  Halfway through the film, when audiences discover to what extent the protagonist is willing to go to accomplish his mission, it’s impossible not to be engaged in his brutally unrelenting plight.

Former government operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) has retired from his job of long hours and dangerous work in an attempt to reconnect with his estranged daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). But with a restrictive ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and his naturally overprotective impulses, he finds the young woman drifting further away.  Not wanting to compound their strained relationship, Bryan reluctantly permits Kim to vacation in Paris, giving her more freedom than he’s comfortable with. Things quickly spiral out of control when she’s kidnapped by Albanian slave traders from her hotel room.  Now, in a desperate and deadly quest, Bryan will stop at nothing to track down those responsible, to save his daughter from the clutches of a depraved organization.

Luc Besson certainly has an obsession with shady men with checkered pasts, forced to delve into disturbing criminal underworlds to seek redemption and vigilante justice. Antiheroes come in many styles, and although some critics may scour at unoriginal aspects of Liam Neeson’s Bryan, the man still knows how to be a badass. In the rescue of his daughter, he has no limits; this creates many unexpected scenes of exercising an iron will and a frightening determination, which finds a seemingly heroic man donning a guise of villainy. And yet, all of it feels righteous – it’s a testament to character design when the hero can remain a hero even after viciously torturing criminals or shooting innocent people to force a few quick answers. He may not be entirely unique, but this hardboiled, unflinching “preventer” is simply fixating.

“Taken” is an action film connoisseur’s perfect guilty pleasure. Bubbling over with chase sequences, shootouts (the kind where the baddies supply all the firepower), and fistfights, it takes on a realism not found in many of the action-for-the-sake-of-action flicks of recent years. Bryan’s hand-to-hand combat skills don’t rely on flamboyant or showy martial arts, instead taking a more realistic approach, with plenty of one-hit takedowns and throat-chops that effectively subdue the enemy in a stealthier manner.  The authenticity of it all may be negotiable, but it’s refreshing to see simpler forms of attacking and defending – and it’s certainly more believable when random gun-toting henchmen aren’t prepared with perfect kung-fu fighting techniques to combat the specially trained protagonist.

“Taken” prides itself on its serious, dark tone.  The villains’ atrocities are amplified by their detestable trade; they will receive no sympathy from viewers when they get what’s coming to them.  The hero is also rather remorseless, stopping at literally nothing to find his daughter.  But this grimmer mood sets “Taken” apart from its predecessors, and provides an authenticity lacking from those flashier attempts at sinister action, seen plenty of times before. When the protagonist can electro-shock torture a thug for information, and the audience can applaud him for it, it’s evident that an intriguing character has been born.

– The Massie Twins



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