Taken (2008)

Taken (2008) – There are many important lessons one must learn in life, but perhaps one of the most important is this one: do not fuck with Liam Neeson. He will fuck your shit up. Luc Besson is a man of simple action plots. In addition to directing the classics Léon(aka The Professional) and The Fifth Element, he has had a hand in writing and producing dozens of action films over the past couple decades including Unleashed and The Transporter and its sequels. He teamed with director Pierre Morel to bring us Banlieue 13 (aka District B13), one of the first action movies to really use parkour for its chase scenes. So the dude knows about ass-kicking. Taken was a giant hit, due largely to its Liam Neeson fucking people’s shit up formula. With Taken 2 approaching on the horizon, I felt it was a good time to check in again with Mr. Neeson and those unfortunate enough to have fucked with him.

Bryan Mills (Neeson) has had a successful career doing some globe-trotting badass stuff. However it destroyed his marriage and his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) left him for another (richer) man (Xander Berkley). Now Bryan has quit the life of the covert operative in order to be closer to his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Kim’s friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) is going to Europe and has invited Kim to go along. Bryan has too much experience with the big bad world to be in favor of this, but Lenore convinces him to let Kim go. Of course Bryan’s misgivings prove absolutely fucking prophetic since Kim and Amanda are in Paris less than an hour before they get kidnapped by sex traffickers. Bryan hears the whole thing as it happens while he is on the phone with Kim. He then delivers one of the most badass telephone conversations in the history of film as he lets the kidnapper know they fucked with the wrong freakishly-tall Irishman. A prolonged period of Bryan killing the shit out of a bunch of bad guys follows.

Story is not the issue here. This movie has exactly as much story as it needs: “They took my daughter; I’m getting her back.” It’s pretty formulaic after that actually. Bryan gets a lead. He follows it. He kills someone. Repeat until he gets Kim back in the end of the movie (uh, spoiler). That’s all it is, but that’s all it needs to be. The action choreography is thrilling. Neeson brings a sort of calculating efficiency to the role that reinforces the main simple message I’ve repeated several times in this review: this is a not a dude you want to fuck with. Of course someone HAS to fuck with him or we’d get no movie… and more people who really should have learned their lesson have to fuck with him so we get the sequel. I’m okay with this. I’ve found many of the films Besson has written and produced to have a certain basic utilitarian quality to them. Nothing is introduced except what is directly relevant to the ass-kicking that forms the core of the movie. (His directorial efforts seem to focus more on character by contrast.) Sometimes, that’s all we need from the movies.

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