More Exciting Than Kinsey


Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace

By Robert Patrick

“I can tell you I don’t have money,” Liam Neeson tells his daughters captors, using the baritone hum of his voice to speak calmly into a receiver. “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.” And with that composed suggestion of vengeance, so begins one of the best action films of the last decade. Taken, a movie about a father who stops at nothing to rescue his daughter from the talons of Albanian slave traders who had plucked her up, is a steady stream of adrenaline from start to finish. Relying heavily on choreographed fight sequences and the unflappable demeanor of Liam Neeson, Taken supersedes notions of mediocrity by playing at its strengths at breakneck speed.

Bryan (Liam Neeson), a semi-retired special agent, who, conveniently enough, has the agility and quickness of Jason Bourne, wants to spend more time with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Because he is divorced to his wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), his ability to spend ample time with Kim is slightly stunted. To make up for lost moments, Bryan tries to make his daughter happy by any means possible, even if it’s giving her the green light to backpack through Europe with her friend, Amanda (Katie Cassidy), unattended. There are dangers to traveling outside of the United States, Bryan tells his daughter, as if he can see into the next 48 hours of her life. Soon, Kim and Amanda meet a sketchy boy upon their arrival in Europe, get hastily abducted, and, without any reservations for human rights, get sold into slave trafficking. The aforementioned situation is a primer for Bryan to land in Paris, start whipping his fist into people’s throats, and gather information about his daughter’s disappearance through methods that would make Charles Bronson proud.

The movie, using frantic camerawork and explosive pacing, paints a riveting expose of a man in desperation. Lovers of action films will admire the lack of minimalism in director Pierre Morel’s handy-work, while fans of Liam Neeson will revel in the actor’s ability to lose himself in such a macabre role. The screenplay, while not groundbreaking, is smart in knowing how to revive thematic action elements of the past, while still being faithful to the audience’s intelligence by not over-baking the scenes. There are plenty of sequences that, while being implausible in reality, flow so well within the confines of the film that we appreciate its respective universe of aerial mobility and regenerative skin. Really, our hero never faces certain danger, but it’s his journey that makes this popcorn piece so enjoyable.

Morel, in directing Taken, takes superfluous action scenes to an entirely new level – there really isn’t any other way to put it. Most impressive is Neeson, who allows himself to become an instrument of death; an artisan of creative hand-to-hand combat. Sure, the premise is ridiculous, but it wears its outrageous behavior proudly. When a movie proclaims that it is an action movie, gives us an exposition about how bloody violent its going to be, then begins to entertain its audience better than other films in its genre, I’m onboard to give it my praise.

People may overtly scoff at the idea of Taken being a tolerable movie, but they are also giving it short shrift. Every now and again, with the proper cast and crew, a movie that seemingly offers so little can be turned into something great; even if the star of the film is impaling cars with someone’s head. Articulation comes in many forms, I guess.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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