Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Xander Berkley, Katie Cassidy
Luc Besson & Mark Kamen
PG-13, 93 mins.,
**** (out of ****)
TAKEN is like if a older Jason Bourne had a teenager daughter, and some idiot group abducted her (though, in their defense, they didn't know who they were gonna steal from). You'd expect all the antics and kick-assery from the first three films to be displayed on these idiots as he whoops some serious tooshies. Well, thank God TAKEN takes that approach. The entire film I had a abnormally giant grin on my face as I watched Liam Neeson (who will always be Qui-Gon Jinn to me; in fact, I sorta hoped he would pop his lightsaber out from his belt and start slicin' and dicin'!...but it didn't happen...) beat the living snott out of everyone connected to his daughter's dissaperance. He fights without mercy or compassion. The entire movie is one adrenaline rush, and right from the begining, your attention never deviates.
Bryan Mills (Neeson) has retired from the CIA, acting as a Jason Bourne-like "preventer" [deal with it; the Jason Bourne references will continue], to make up for lost time with his seventeen-year old daughter Kim (Grace), who, frankly, he doesn't know all that well anymore. His ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) has remarried with big-shot businessman Stuart (Berkley) who acts as more of a father than Bryan will ever be. So, the relationship between the four is pretty much strained, to say the least. To keep him company, Bryan still hangs out with some buds from his preventer days. As a present of sorts for his birthday girl, Bryan allows her to go to Paris with her friend Amanda (Cassidy) to "check out museums." As you can tell from the trailer, shit hits the fan when agents of the sex-trafficking world take Kim and Amanda, and Bryan vows to find them - using his CIA contacts and his ex's new hubby Stuart's connections - and make everyone involved in the abduction pay dearly. As the tagline says, "the time for revenge has come."
You want action? TAKEN delivers. You want a thin plot but yet simultaneously interesting? TAKEN delivers. You want to watch some damn good revenge getting their groove on the bad guys? TAKEN delivers. It knows what it is, and sticks to it. The film doesn't get political on you, and it doesn't try to shove morals down our throats - right and wrong. Nor does it go the 24: SEASON 7 route by questioning Bryan's tactics (alright, Bryan's Paris contact Jean Claude does, slightly, I admit). It is a completely and utterly joyus action movie, and I can't recommend it enough.
If anyone had any doubt that Liam Neeson would be unconvincing as an action hero, I implore you to see this film, because he erases any doubts pretty much right away. If I was in the same room with the bloke, I would be more intimidated with him around than, say, three Presidents sitting in my living room asking to talk to me because I am The One with supernatural powers and can save the day. Anyway, back on topic - Neeson owns this film. In fact - although this may be more attributed to the script - the whole reason I wanted to see this film was because of Neeson's calm, calculating voice in the trailer as he delivers a short, sweetly delicious 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."
Does that not just own? Isn't that one of the most beautifulest things you ever heard? I'm about ready to compare it to the brilliance of the V FOR VENDETTA "V" monologue. So, in summation [if it isn't clear enough], Liam Neeson rocks as a man with lethal abilties, and is quite imposing without beating the shit out of people, and that's no easy talent. I eagerly look forward to his other action works.
The supporting cast shows up and do their roles, and I got no problems with them. It's a little sad to see Katie Cassidy, who I fell for in SUPERNATURAL's third season as the good/bad demon Ruby, have very little screentime, and even less lines. Oh well, the positive side is that she's still getting jobs. And the great George Mason - aka Xander Berkley - doesn't have much to do either. It's sort of like his wife's job in TWILIGHT (who, by the way, also was on 24), to say a few lines and make their presence known, but not be all that integral to the storyline. But his character does help out Bryan, so I can't give the bloke any shit.
Jean Gray shows up - er, scratch that, Famke Janssen - as Neeson's estranged wife who treats him like a bag of poopey (couldn't she be a little less harsh on the dude? would that be too much to ask?), and of course, by the end of the movie, she's thanking him. I think it would have been nice if both characters were established a little better, with more scenes than to explore who they are instead of the cliched material they were given.
Concerning Maggie Grace, I don't have anything negative or positive to say. Similarly to the actors above, she came in, did her part, and left. This movie is all about Neeson - it lives or dies by his ability to be a convincing ex-CIA kick asser, everyone else is sorta just extra servings of an already good meal. [wow, that was a terrible analogy]. But as far as her playing a seventeen year old when she, in fact, is 30, I'd say she did a convincing job. I definitely wouldn't have pegged her as 30 unless I looked it up.
With the director of DISTRICT B13 at the helm, I should have anticipated the thrilling action sequences beforehand, but I didn't, and it ended up being a nice surprise. Everything is lightning fast, but filmed well enough to comprehend all the going-ons. I recognize that many audience members didn't dig Paul Greengrass' quick-cutting, handheld-everything shooting for BOURNE SUPREMACY and ULTIMATUM, and although the same tactics are utilized here, I never once lost my surroundings nor was I confused as to who was hitting who.
Penned by Luc Besson of TRANSPORTER fame and Robert Mark Kamen of KARATE KID fame, the script is solid, if unremarkable. It's not dumb, and doesn't attempt to dumb the audience. I merely wish more time was taken for particular aspects - most specifically the characters. I understand the limited use of Kim as she served her purposes where and when, but her mother and step-father deserved, I believe, a few more scenes prior to the crisis to establish them better. Thankfully, the screenplay doesn't turn corny (I'm thinking of the bomb-on-car sequence in TRANSPORTER 2), but attempts to maintain a heightened realism (like the BOURNE movies), and it is successful for the most part. There are moments where you question the probability of certain stuff (the more logic-based people will have a field day with this; for me, I just questioned the probability of certain fight sequences, such as 'there's no way that dude's gonna make it out of there in one piece!' But yet he did).
My only giant grievance with the entire movie is its conclusion. (Spoilers follow) Considering that Jean Claude and the Paris police force was on Bryan's tail, I would have expected coming back to Los Angeles would have been a bit more complicated. But, it seems I was wrong. After saving his daughter from being handled by the chubby man in charge, we cut to the airport in LA where Lenore and Stuart are waiting for them. Of course, we can assume Stuart used his contacts to get Bryan back to the states all in one peace, but just to up the ante a bit, it woulda been cool to have the police force try to snab him but miss by a hair. Keeping the suspense going.
Overall, TAKEN is a near-perfect action/revenge movie, and at this moment in time, the best film 0f 2009 thus far. I can honestly say that I intend on seeing this theatrically at least three more times, because I don't think I can get tired of this flick. It's definitely worth a watch, if just to enjoy the beautiful kick-assery on screen. There are a few gaps of logic here and there, but it's easy to gloss over when you have a product as good as this. I want more. Too bad the story was a bit too stand aloney.