Revenge films are usually formulaic fair which are driven not by logic or character development, but by raw emotion which – if used correctly – can make or break a film of this sort.
And while Taken does not match the dizzying heights of Tony Scott’s super violent Man on Fire, the film-noir stylings of Payback, or the blood soaked chop suey of the Kill Bill series, it is a solid entry into the sub-genre thanks to director Pierre Morel’s breakneck direction and Liam Neeson’s strong performance.
Nesson stars as Brian, a particular brand of CIA Agent who left behind his espionage days for a semblance of a normal life with his 17 year old daughter Kimmy (Maggie Grace), who lives with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). When Kimmy travels to Paris with a group of friends and is subsequently abducted by Albanian terrorists and forced into the sex trafficking trade, Brian vows to find her using his mercenary skills and vast resources.
In turn Taken becomes a race against time thriller: will Brian save his virgin daughter in time before they defile her?
The fact that Luc Besson –creator of such modern action classics Leon and Nikita - wrote and produced this film should give some insight as to what to expect with Taken. Besson’s frequent cinematographer Pierre Morell provides directorial duties, creating a highly energetic film spurned on by a lot of quick cuts and a techno score.
The film’s violence is a sticking point, as seedy villains are done away with extreme prejudice with some kills a tad to sadistic for my taste (how did this film only manage a PG-13 rating in the US?) Enhancing the films gritty tone is its filthy backdrop of sex trafficking taking place in Paris’s worst haunts, while the majestic city also provides an exotic edge when the action is transferred to its more touristy locales.
Unfortunately the action scenes are shot in the hand held fashion of the trend setting Bourne movies, a move that heightens realism yet subtracts from the choreography put into the scenes.
Speaking of which, Liam Neeson pulls off the fight scenes convincingly well. Despite getting on in his age he makes a more than formidable action hero, and his acting talent makes his turn as a beaming father turned hard edged vigilante all the more palpable.
And despite a lot of loose ends and a never ending barrage of cheesy dialogue, Taken is a highly entertaining film which will resonate with men, (especially action fan fathers with daughters), than with women, since there is something undeniably primal with Taken that will stir the souls of most men. Call it a testosterone fantasy if you will.