Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace
Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
20th Century Fox
I had to adjust my mind a bit before watching "Taken," an action/thriller starring Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, a retired spy turned domestic bodyguard who gets called back into action when his 17-year-old daughter (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped by Albanian sex traffickers while vacationing in Paris.
My adjustment had nothing to do with the action, which is your fairly straightforward action flick co-written and produced by Luc Besson.
Try to follow me.
"Taken" co-stars Famke Janssen as Bryan's ex-wife. Janssen starred in last year's festival darling "Turn the River," screened during the Indianapolis International Film Festival alongside this critic's preferred Minnie Driver vehicle, "Take."
So, I'm sitting in the theatre watching "Taken" thinking "Where's Minnie Driver?"
Fortunately, there's nothing in "Taken" that is anywhere near as confusing.
In fact, if you really give a hoot about logical storylines, character development or plot then "Taken" is most likely not for you.
"Taken" is an action film. Nothing more. Nothing less.
As an action film, "Taken" kicks ass. As Bryan Mills, Liam Neeson kicks lots of ass in a wide variety of ways.
Neeson has been in action films before, but there's something a bit tired about "Taken." It's sort of along the lines of Harrison Ford's fourth turn as Indiana Jones. Was that fourth Indiana Jones flick horrible? No, not really. It was just wholly unnecessary.
"Taken," as action-packed as it is, just feels like an unnecessary cinematic diversion for Neeson.
In other words, "Taken" is a paycheck film.
Fans of pure, unadulterated action and/or Besson flicks are likely to find much more to like about "Taken" than film critics. By nature, we're a more demanding audience less likely to excuse the storyline, character and plot issues.
Can we get lost in mindless action? Sure. Are we going to write a rave review about it? Probably not, unless it's one of the usual quote whores (You know who you are!).
To the credit of director Pierre Morel, "Taken" moves along swiftly and is seldom boring. Morel keeps the action going at a top notch rate, much as he did with the far more enjoyable "District B13." At 93 minutes, "Taken" is a breezy, mindless, violent and thrilling ride that never makes sense but certainly invades the senses.
Neeson seems well aware that "Taken" doesn't require anything resembling acting, and while he occasionally seems to be coasting a bit much it's not nearly as lazy a performance as Michael Caine tends to do in similar situations.
Likewise, Grace and Janssen aren't really called upon to do much but certainly don't do anything to distract from the goings on.
On a weekend when Renee Zellweger tries to distract the romantic audiences away from Superbowl Sunday, it's the hardcore action fans who are likely to be "Taken."
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic