Morel's latest not Taken in

Neeson can't save formulaic flick

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Liam Neeson in a scene from Taken

Gazette File Photo

CAN’T BUY ME LOVE. Liam Neeson gives his estranged onscreen daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) a birthday present with his bitter ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) by his side in Taken.

Directed by: Pierre Morel
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace

2 stars

If audiences burst into laughter during moments of dramatic dialogue in Taken, it may be indicative of the time spent on writing the script, as compared to the time spent filming the action. The effort from French director Pierre Morel delivers fast-paced entertainment by following the blockbuster movie formula at every step.

A redemptive element in Taken is leading man Liam Neeson as former CIA agent Bryan Mills, a relentless killing machine. Mills is like the older version of skillful assassin Jason Bourne or a taller version of torture junkie Jack Bauer. However, Neesson gives the character some dimension by using his gravitas to explore the dark side of revenge.

Mills has retired in order to improve his relationship with his estranged 17-year-old daughter Kim (Grace), who lives in California with her strict mother Lenore (Jannsen) and gratuitously rich stepfather Bill (Xander Berkeley).

When Mills is asked to allow his daughter to travel to Paris with friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy), he concedes against instinct in order to win her love. However, Mills lets her know how his job as “a preventer” has made him aware of the risks in travelling.

After this foreshadowing, it is no surprise the first French person the girls meet outside the airport is working for Albanian sex traffickers. The portrayal of shifty foreigners as stereotypical villains is ridiculous and borders on being racist.

Yet, the criminal activity of these human traffickers provides Mills with 96 hours to find his daughter before she is sold for sex. The movie shifts into high gear after Kim is taken; the threat to her virginity is like the ticking time bomb that Mills must race through the underworlds of Paris to disarm.

In this race against time, Taken includes action sequences that move from amazing car chases through construction sites to impressively choreographed fights. Both the pace and search are relentless, as anyone that stands between father and daughter is dispatched.

While Taken brings to light slavery rings and the corruption that allows their existence, the film is not a commentary on the problems of sex trafficking.

Taken is successful as mindless entertainment and does not pretend to be much beyond that. The plot requires more than some suspension of disbelief, as Parisian nightlife becomes the centre of kidnapping, drug addiction and prostitution. This makes Taken a mediocre film that may single handedly dismantle European tourism industries.

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