Liam Neeson kicks physical and moral ass in Taken, Luc Besson acolyte Pierre Morel’s follow-up to his fast and parkour-ious District B13. True Lies without the yuks, the film thrills in former spy and sadsack daddy Bryan Mills (Neeson) busting out the know-how when his estranged, U2-loving daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) arrives in Paris and is immediately kidnapped and sold into prostitution by a group of Albanians. Morel sees something poetic in Bryan’s violent, whirling, single-minded ambition to save Kim while she’s still a rape virgin and dresses like a Mormon, conveying the man’s uncanny ability to process a crime scene from unforeseen, sometimes dizzying points of view. Like District B13, Taken is largely a display of physical prowess, but the filmmakers, among them producer and co-writer Besson, wish to understand Bryan’s retrieval mission—all flying punches, two-steps-ahead sleuthing, and impromptu electrocutions—as a revolt against a twisted capitalist machine that thrives on the complicity between thugs and the police who are supposed to hunt them down. When Bryan is told that his daughter’s kidnapping wasn’t personal, he’s both enraged and taken aback by this casual acknowledgement of how the criminal mind justifies bad behavior. For a moment, it’s as if the reason for the cruelties of the world click into place, but instead of grimly resigning himself to these horrors he rebels against them, proving himself first as an individual and then, more cheesily, as a father. Would that Morel had consistently infused the project with the vibrant spatial poetics of District B13, but the subtle insights of the script and Neeson’s splendiferous range more than pick up the slack.
- 20th Century Fox
- 94 min
- Pierre Morel
- Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
- Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Goran Kostić, Katie Cassidy
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