Theatrical release: 01/30/2009 DVD Date: 05/12/2009
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 93 minutes
Note(s): An original screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.
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Review: I'll say up front I'm not a fan of Liam Neeson. To me, he has a very narrow range as an actor and always seems to be playing essentially the same character, and I suspect that character is himself. So unless there is some other compelling reason for me to see a film in which he stars, I usually skip it. And I've done so with his 2008 thriller Taken … until now. (A family member, surprised I hadn't seen this "terrific movie", encouraged me to try it.)
Neeson plays Bryan Mills, an ex-operative of some sort — I'm not sure it's ever made clear what agency he was associated with, but let's go with CIA — who was very, very good at his job. But his work caused him to become estranged from his wife and 17 year-old daughter Kim, the former marrying a wealthy Los Angeles businessman, who provides for their every need. Mills quits his job and takes on part-time work in LA in order to be close to his daughter, hopefully trying to make up for lost time. That's the backstory to the film, which essentially opens with Kim wanting to travel to Paris — with a similarly aged friend — to visit the museums and see the sights. Kim, being underage, needs Mill's permission to leave the country, which he reluctantly grants. It isn't long after Kim arrives in Paris, however, that she's kidnapped leading Mills on a mission to get his daughter back, and punish those that took her.
The vast majority of the film is centered on Mills arriving in Paris and methodically maiming or killing a series of men and at least one woman, shooting the wife of a police superintendent, as he gathers information on Kim's whereabouts. But I got hung on a key plot point that was never quite explained. The kidnappers are taking young women not to ransom them, but to enslave them into prostitution. My question is: why take two wealthy teens, whose families have the resources and connections to get them back, when it would be so much simpler to take teens, whose families wouldn't cause so much trouble? A scarcely thought out explanation is provided — it's cheaper to take them off the street than to air freight them in from another country — but that doesn't really answer my question. I know I'm too focused on this issue, which is necessary if there is to be a "rest of the story", but still, it's lazy screenwriting like this that bothers me most in an otherwise mindless action film. (How Mills gets out of France at the end of the film is also a mystery; he's killed dozens of people, threatened important government officials, and still waltzes out of the country as if nothing happened.) About the only two scenes that I thought were really quite well done and touching as well involved Mills and a superstar singer, neither of which have anything to do with the premise of the movie. Still, I'm glad the editors included them, as these 10 minutes or so are really about the only reason to see Taken.
I won't be seeing the sequel, Taken 2, which features the same cast of characters only with the roles reversed — Mills is the one taken in this film — and it's not likely I'll be seeing another Liam Neeson starring film again anytime soon. Taken 2 really isn't all that bad, but you'll need to simply take it for what it is, and not make the mistake I made by asking too many questions about the logic of the plotline.