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Non-Review Review: Taken

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.

– Bryan Mills

Let’s face it, if the above quote doesn’t appeal to you then you probably aren’t the audience for this action flick.

It's a little like that. Okay, it's a lot like that.

Taken came out of nowhere last year. A Liam Neeson film? A vigilante film in a landscape populated with mature and considered dramas like Harry Brown and The Brave One? Taken lacks the blockbuster budget of your average Hollywood action flick, with the huge explosions, instead focusing on incredibly stylish and brutal hand-to-hand combat. The movie does exactly what it says on the tin.

The movie’s excuse for a plot sees a former CIA agent’s daughter kidnapped on a trip to Europe with a friend. Unfortunately for her captors, her father is a man with “a very special set of skills”. He proceeds to fly over to the Paris and dispense his own swift form of justice. The internet tells me that there are 31 people killed over the course of the movie and 20 more ‘beatings’ given.

Taken is very much a movie which has to be judged by its own particular terms. If you’re looking for a sophisticated exploration of the sex trade in modern France, you’re probably better set to look elsewhere. This isn’t a rich character drama or a nuanced portrayal of the complexities of vigilante justice. It’s a movie about a very angry man dealing some well deserved blows to a bunch of collective scumbags. And one innocent bystander. But we don’t dwell on that.

In fairness, the movie manages to offer a pretty harrowing depiction of the European sex trade. It isn’t particularly in-depth, but it is chilling. It’s easy to imagine that more than a few parents are having second thoughts about sending their kids overseas after watching this film. Between this and those movies about cannibals and sadists in the Deep South, it’s a wonder anyone leaves their house in the United States.

If you’re in the right frame of mind, Taken succeeds incredibly. You’ll be pumping your fist in the air, shouting “yeah!” at insane volumes and mouthing the word “awesome”. Every scene in the movie is pitch perfectly choreographed. The fight scenes are like those from the Bourne films, but slightly trimmed. Indeed, the film has a popular internet nickname “the Bourne Paternity”. Truth be told, that isn’t fair – there’s a lot more plot in the average Bourne film. But the mood fits almost perfectly.

Liam Neeson and the rest of an all-star cast add a lot of credibility to the film. It’s like eating a beef stew made from the highest grade meat. There isn’t exactly a lot of depth he can work into the character, but Neeson carries the movie’s first twenty minutes of setup remarkably well, as well as single-handedly anchoring the film’s few non-violent interludes (few though they might be). And he’s surprisingly adept at the action as well.

Taken has attracted a fair bit of controversy for its alleged racism. Okay, there are some unpleasant undertones there. Americans are imperialist pigs with little-to-no respect for international justice and the French are a bunch of corrupt indifferent bureaucrats. Okay, so maybe moreso the Albanians and the Arabs have cause for complaint. In fairness, he’s breaking up an Albanian sex trafficking gang, so I can’t really see how you’d balance that out – would inserting a token ‘good’ Albanian make it somewhat better? I somehow doubt it would remedy those complaints that people have. Of course, the film could have just used a generic non-ethnic-specific sex trading gang, but… really? It’s the sort of political correctness which means that we can’t show Islamic extremists as bad guys, because some people believe that presenting an ethno-specific cabal of villains suggests to the general public that all members of that group are inherently criminal.

I don’t know. Neeson’s concerned father plows his way through links in a particularly messy chain with absolutely no regard for ethnicity or skin colour. There’s more than one French or (apparently) American man who crosses Bryan the wrong ay.

With Taken, you know what you’re getting. It wears its heart on its sleeve, and certainly couldn’t be accused of misleading its potential audience. It isn’t for everyone, but at least you should be able to tell if it’s for you a mile off.

6 Responses

  1. “It’s like eating a beef stew made from the highest grade meat” Perfect analogy. Nothing we haven’t seen before but it’s well made. Liam Neeson isn’t asked to do much more but look threatening and killed a couple hundred bad guys while blowing half of the French capital. What’s not to like lol

    • Thanks Castor. I think (with yesterday being Paddy’s day) beef stew is on my mind. But, yes, the title quote is a fairly solid indicator of what you can expect going in and it achieves what it sets out to – it is a movie that demands some fist pumping and high fives when watched in a group.

  2. Taken was great dumb fun. Although the daughter was a little annoying.

  3. Watching the daughter run amuses me so much in this film

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