Taken, but not stirred

by Cap'n Carrot on January 30, 2009 · 6 comments

in Film

taken-movieTaken is the film for you if you simply love Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme flicks, and are constantly bemoaning the fact that they have been relegated to direct-to-DVD and made-for-TV projects. If however, you want more out of a film than pace, so-so action, and a high body count you’re going to be disappointed.

For those of you who haven’t seen the trailer, Liam Neeson stars as a retired spy trying to reconnect with his estranged 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) who wants his permission to travel to France for the summer with her best friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy).

Of course knowing the hidden dangers in such a trip Bryan is reluctant to let his daughter go. That is until he’s guilted into agreement by his ex-wife (Famke Janssen, in full-on bitch mode) only to have his daughter and her friend kidnapped hours after they touch down in Paris. Note – never trust your ex-wife.

After the initial 20-minute lead-in what follows is a well-paced 70-minute thriller as as Bryan makes logic leaps (some reasonable, some less so), cajoles and threatens old friends for help, and leaves destruction and twisted bodies in his wake. Note – if committing a major crime do it in France where the police are slow, dimwitted, easily manipulated, and all on the take.

Though the emotion Bryan experiences comes off as quite real, it’s the only aspect which does. This is the kind of film where the hero can knock out a baddie with a single punch, blow up buildings, “heroically” torture evil-does for information, and even shoot a cop’s wife while blackmailing him, all in the name of his mission, and never have to face any consequences. Note – learn that move to knock-out bad guys with one punch, and how to take down a room of armed enemies without getting hurt.

One inherent problem with casting Neeson is his age and lack of martial arts training or fighting ability. The solution director Pierre Morel comes up with is to quick-cut all action scenes together to the point where the only thing seen on the screen are blurs of action. The attempt is to make Neeson’s character look bad ass, the result is to give the audience a headache. Note – remember to take aspirin to Morel films in the future.

And let’s face it, the story isn’t exactly new. The film liberally borrows from many thrillers and action films (most notably Commando, Trade, and Frantic) without adding anything new to the proceedings. To hide the fact that we’ve seen this all before the action and suspense is amped up to 10, which results in a fun roller coaster ride (as long as you never look down to realize the car you’ve strapped yourself into is only barely hanging onto the tracks). Note – man, I want to watch Commando now.

Taken has a boring set-up and a trite ending, but the middle of the film (if you set your brain in neutral) can be some dimwitted pulse-poundin’ fun (and if you squint you’ll swear Seagal is taking apart baddies in trademark style). You can’t take something like Taken seriously, and I sure wouldn’t plop down $10 to see it in the theater, but for a late night double-header with something like Hard to Kill, Double Impact, or Roadhouse you might have a fun time. Just remember to make a booze run first.

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  • MavMurdoc

    Wow… everyone seems to love HATING on this movie. Yes, it’s not going down as one of those “All time greats”. I don’t think that was the plan here. Yes, you’ve seen this sort of story before. But how many movies are exactly the same way; borrowing from older films or straight up remakes.

    Liam is a great actor, and I thought (like said in this article) that he was able to make you feel what he was feeling. The fear of losing a child, and complete rage at ANYONE involved.

    The action (for me) was fun. Of course it’s not going to be completely realistic; it’s a MOVIE!

    I don’t like how everyone seems to just absolutely hate movies today that aren’t 100% different than anything they’ve ever seen before. Why can’t people enjoy something for what it is. In this case, a good action movie. If you’re looking for something that’s going to change your life and give you a new outlook on those around you, go watch some overly artsy independent film and leave my action movies alone!

  • http://www.dadsbigplan.com .alphamonkey.

    You know, I was a little disappointed that I had to skip out on this screening. Make no mistake – I thought it looked dumb as hell, but I do like Neeson and I thought it’d be an enjoyable boomfest. Carrot and I disagree enough that I may still give it a go.

    But to your last point it’s something I’ve wrestled with myself on occasion. I know action films trend towards teh dumb, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a little originality and brain behind the brawn.

  • http://www.transbuddha.com Cap’n Carrot

    I’m not saying you have to re-invent the wheel each time out, but you need to make it different enough for me to shell out time and money. Otherwise, why not save some $$ and simply watch Commando again?

    Although I spend much of this review discussing the films flaws (which are myriad) I do admit its the type of film if you are willing ignore its issues you can still sit back enjoy the pace and have an okay time. There were too many distractions and logic problems for me personally to do this in this particular film (many of which could have been fixed with minimal script changes).

    I think we as a culture get too invested in thinking the movies we like are good and those we don’t like are bad. You can like a bad movie (I have my share of guilty pleasures) but your enjoyment alone doesn’t make it a good movie, it’s just a flick you like.

  • MavMurdoc

    Gah! Commando was one of those that I couldn’t even finish (I know I’m probably speaking blasphemously to most of you right now). I just couldn’t get over Arnold’s cheese factor. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and Taken probably isn’t a show for everyone. But I enjoyed it.

  • http://gameboyonline.adjrevolution.com/ Paul

    They were advertising this movie to buy on DVD over Christmas in my country (Australia). I don’t remember it being at the cinemas at all.

  • http://ravrodriguez.wordpress.com/ Ray Rodriguez

    The Albanian sex trade at the heart of Paris is new-is it really true?

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