Everyone seemed incredulous at the idea of a Liam Neeson action movie. "Oskar Schindler? I think not." Crazy talk, considering Neeson's roles in Darkman and Rob Roy, to name but two films in an impressive filmography that also includes, ugh The Haunting. I think the shadow of Schindler's List hangs over Neeson just a touch, and people just associate him with headier stuff, choosing to omit The Phantom Menance from their mental checklist(it's ok, everyone does that). Oh, and dude was in Krull. Remember that? Krull was sooo good.
Taken is a particularly effective action thriller because everyone brings their A game. The acting for the most part is solid and convincing, which I refuse to take for granted after watching Gran Torino. While the script isn't a revolutionary work of screenwriting, it has just enough touches of the absurd to elevate Taken over some Steven Seagal straight to video hack work. The real smart touch is that the film moves. It moves swiftly, with purpose, just like Neeson's angry father.
The plot is set up with Neeson as an ex-CIA operative attempting to reconcile with his remarried wife and estranged daughter. Famke Janssen plays the ex-wife, and holy hell how old am I Famke is playing somebody's mom. This is like when Carla Gugino played the mom in Spy Kids. And she's the original Silk Spectre in Watchmen. However, she can also been seen draining DeNiro's balls in Righteous Kill. So she's a milf. But I'm off topic.
Maggie Grace is Neeson's daughter. Despite being 26 in real life, Grace does her darndest to appear 17. This includes dying her hair brown, wearing sun dresses, and flail running. Lots of flail running. According to this film, all 17 year old girls use flail running as their main means of transportation. Because gawd, I can't be seen with you. There's a subplot involving Grace's character's wish to be a singer. However, she never sings, and she greets Daddy Neeson's gift of a karaoke machine by tossing it on the ground to see the new horse(!) her step dad bought her. Kids are so spoiled these days.
Grace is invited to go to Paris with a friend, but Neeson is having none of it. He's ex-CIA, and the world outside of the U.S. is just somewhere you go if you want to die quicker. But he feels like a dick, attachs a bunch of rules and stipulations to her trip, and ultimately lets her go.
Now this is where the film kicks in and actually starts getting crazy. Maggie Grace and her friend Dumb Slut are kidnapped RIGHT AFTER THEY GET OFF THE PLANE. That's right, there are skeevy guys waiting at the airport, who then break into the house they're staying in and kidnap them. Luckily, Grace is on the phone with Neeson, who has time to record their conversation and send the info to a collegue, who in mere minutes of movie screen time, is able to procure the name(Marco), nationality(Albanian), and type of criminal involvement(sex trade) of the guy who spoke TWO WORDS into the phone. Incredible. Simply incredible. Sometimes when I'm home visiting and my aunt calls, she thinks I'm my dad.
Neeson is in Paris in no time, quickly finding the man who set up his daughter's kidnapping, pushing him into a cab and proceeding to wail on his stomach while asking questions that are impossible to answer while being punched ex-CIA style in the stomach. Neeson continues to call in favors and get in a variety of chases and shoot outs, all while never breaking a sweat. This worked for me, in that Liam Neeson is completely committed to the role. He isn't winking at the camera or enjoying himself. He just wants his daughter, and he will kill every man in this room and all of Paris to find her. By the way, the guy he talked to on the phone, you know, Marco!, the Albanian. Neeson kills him by hooking him up to an electrical socket and letting him burn. Imagine if they had had a conversation. Information procured from Marco does lead Neeson to Maggie Grace's best friend, Dumb Slut, who is dead of a forced drug overdose, because that's how they role in France. It's a hard place, just watch Amelie. This also does lead to the revelation of a secret cabal of men who bid on women to rape, because while they are wealthy and powerful, and have needs far above our own. Rapey needs. Terrible as the idea of this is, I believe it, unlike Hostel 2, which thinks people would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to just kill somebody. Right. Twenty bucks and a craigslist ad for that one.
The big showdown leading to the rescue features more great gunplay/Neeson kills everyone action, with a great bit where Neeson takes the shot instead of holding it and leaving us in the audience to scream "Take the shot!" That's another thing Taken is, considerate. Oh, and at one point, to procure information, Neeson shoots a guy's innocent wife. While this is awesome, Jack Bauer did it on 24 years ago. But it was still a nice touch.
Do you like when evil people are beaten, shot and killed for the terrible things they have done? Then Taken is right up your alley. If you wonder how a guy can shoot a cop's wife and still make it through customs, well, we all wondered that.