Sunday, February 22, 2009
If the folks over at "24" are still contemplating a transition to the big screen, they'll have to work hard to give us something better than "Taken."
In this film, Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a retired CIA operative whose daughter is kidnapped by sex traffickers while spending the summer in Paris. When she is … taken, he unleashes himself on the European underworld in a combination of Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer. Resourceful, brutally efficient, and relentless, Mills is like Bauer before he went all soft and PC.
A role like this could've been driven to excess by a lesser actor, but Neeson plays him with an intense understatement. Mills is not a bloodthirsty demon, but he is a man on a mission who does not suffer the dark denizens of society selling beautiful young women into slavery. If Mills has to torture and/or kill some of them to find his daughter, so be it.
Mills' interrogation techniques, of course, are part of what has liberal commentators in a tissy over this film, which has led to its overall mediocre reviews. But when even the local government is in on the take, I say, what's a superagent father to do? I don't mind seeing evil men killed.
Apparently, neither do a lot of other moviegoers. "Taken" is about to cross the $100 million mark, a total shock to the greater Hollywood community, I'm sure. But after a two-year presidential campaign full of navel gazing, maybe there are more of us out there than people think that are sick of hearing how horrible America is and are ready to see one of our guys go get some of these bastards. With his kid's life on the line, Mills certainly isn't about to spare a moment question whether these truly evil men deserve a day in court that will never come.
Look, "Taken" isn't some revelatory experience. The scenes that get us to the daughter's kidnapping are dull, and the dialogue in all non-action scenes is rather weak. There are some ridiculous action moments, of course—enough with the drive-against-traffic scenes, please!
But Neeson's performance seals the deal on this film. He's an instantly likable hero, with a clear mission and, as he says, a specific set of skills to reach his goal and save his child from a lifetime of slavery. It's a thrilling, engrossing, and breathless hour and a half at the movies.