Liam Neeson (right) as Bryan Mills, a retired interrogator putting his skills to effective use in the search for his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace, in picture) during Pierre Morel's action
thriller "Taken", which opened late last month in the U.S. and Canada.  (Photo: Stephanie Branchu/Twentieth Century Fox)

You Take My Daughter?  You'll Take This Action Thriller Right Down Your Throat!
By Omar P.L. Moore/
Friday, February 27, 2009    

In these lean, mean and nasty economic times you need a lean, mean and nasty action thriller, and "Taken", distributed by Twentieth Century Fox, delivers in all categories.  Pierre Morel's film opened in the U.S. and Canada late last month and is currently playing in those North American nations and elsewhere around the globe.  Mr. Morel has crafted a no-frills, thrifty and furious action flick that is blunt, abrupt and impolite, all areas where its appeal will (and continues to) resonate with audiences who see it on the big screen.  Liam Neeson -- in his first leading role in a mainstream Hollywood movie in quite a while -- is Bryan Mills, a retired interrogator who quit the life to see more of his daughter Kim (played by an exuberant Maggie Grace).  Divorced from Lenore, a grouchy windbag of a wife (Famke Janssen, good here a role that the writers made thoroughly one-dimensional), Mills is more isolated than ever in Los Angeles.  His life is framed by the past, with an empty future awaiting.  Mills relives the old days with some of his former work colleagues who encourage him to be part of a security entourage for a singer at concert. 

Through all the memories of moments past though, it is Kim, daddy's little girl, who is still just that to him, even if she's now living with her stepfather Stuart (Xander Berkeley).

The excitement of Paris beckons 17-year-old Kim and her best friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) and excited about boys and the possibilities of romance they jettison Los Angeles for the city of lovers.  Within hours, both are kidnapped.  Then Mr. Neeson gets down to business, employing the tactics of his career (some of which are cheeky and clever) to find Kim and Amanda, as he moves both stealthily and wildly through Parisian streets.  The screenplay for "Taken" is written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen and is sharp and tightly-hewn, establishing character, action and prologue all within the first 15 minutes.  Mr. Besson, who produced "Taken", knows about heat and cool, having directed such strong action dramas as "La Femme Nikita" and "The Professional" (as well as "Angel-A" and "The Fifth Element").  Unlike the operatic style of several of those titles, Mr. Morel's direction of "Taken" is minimalist yet retains the unsentimental elements of some of Mr. Besson's films.  While much of the content in the script is far from new, the quick jabs and counter-punches that the story flaunts are admirable.  The film's tough action sequences are worthy of an R-rating, but the MPAA "somehow" let this film slip through the cracks.  (Expect an unrated DVD release when all is said and done.) 

For all intents and purposes, "Taken" is a moody matinee-type French thriller, pulling no punches.  The film has good cinematography (Michel Abramowitz) and editing (Frédéric Thoraval).  There are occasional surprises too, and though suspense is at a minimum, doses of humor are scattered throughout the film's more tense and somber subject matter, glimpsed here only as a dramatic stakes-raiser and nothing more.

With: Oliver Rabourdin, Holly Valance, Rubens Hyka, Leland Orser, Camille Japy, Nicolas Giraud and Nabil Massad.

"Taken" is now playing across North America and numerous other countries.  The film is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language.  The film's running time is one hour and 31 minutes.


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