Made in: France, USA, UK
Language: English, French, Albanian
Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Olivier Rabourdin, Famke Janssen, Arben Bajraktaraj, Xander Berkeley
Year: 2008

Synopsis: Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a former CIA agent who's had a long career of traveling the world, hunting down enemies of freedom and making the world safe for democracy... one bullet at a time.

But blowing up bad guys has completely wrecked his personal life. His wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), has grown resentful of his frequent absence and divorced him. She lives nearby, though, and is now married to Stuart (Xander Berkeley), a fabulously wealthy businessman.

Officially retired from service, Mills does freelance security jobs with fellow ex-spy buddies and spends most of his time alone. But most of all, he seeks to gain a closer relationship with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace).

Mills is a very protective dad, and shortly after Kim's seventeenth birthday, he reluctantly agrees to let her travel to Paris for the summer. Shortly after Kim and her ditsy friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) arrive, they are kidnapped by a group of mysterious thugs.

Kim is on the phone with Bryan just as she is about to be taken, and he gains a few clues as to who the kidnappers are. Soon, he learns that she has been kidnapped by underground human traffickers who plan to sell Kim into forced sexual slavery.

Understandably pissed, Bryan rushes to Europe and quickly proceeds to kick everyone's ass until he can find out where his daughter is. But the dangerous journey brings him into a dark world that is protected by some very unexpected characters...

The Good: Taken is a highly entertaining, energetic action movie with a simple premise and lots of great stunts. Liam Neeson is solid, and the emotional connection he establishes with the audience is quite genuine and almost moving. Watching this movie, you'll probably feel the anger that he's feeling. And it's tremendously cathartic to watch the villains get their come-uppence in very politically incorrect ways.

Although Maggie Grace looks a little old to be seventeen, she actually does a good job playing a scared teenager without being annoying.

Director Pierre Morel, who also directed District B-13 (Banlieue 13), throws plenty of high-adrenaline set pieces at us. The fight sequences, although not as elegant as they were in District B-13, were still well-filmed and choreographed (and thankfully shot without the Bourne Ultimatum-can't-see-what-the-hell-is-happening-seizure camera system).

The energy level stays pretty constant throughout, and there's a definite sense of eager anticipation as Neeson punches and blasts his way to the bottom of the mystery.

The Bad: Taken contains few minor details that kind of bother me. First off, Liam Neeson is playing an American. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but I'm so accustomed to see him play a Brit or Irishman that I wished they could have worked that into the story somehow.

If he had been a former SAS officer or MI-6 operative (thereby making the movie more British than American), I don't think audiences here in the US would have cared as long as there was genuine ass-kicking in it.

Also, it kind of strained my suspension of disbelief when everyone Liam Neeson encountered, regardless of ethnicity, could understand English perfectly. That, and no one seems to bat an eye with he passes himself as a French policeman...speaking English with an American accent.

He could have at least faked a Canadian accent.

And finally, there wasn't really a central villain or a final showdown. Liam Neeson proves himself to be a bad-ass hero, but without an equally bad-ass evildoer to balance him out, Taken has a lopsided feel where you never feel that the protagonist is in any kind of serious danger.

Who would like this movie: Taken is for you if you're in the mood for an action movie. At less than 90 minutes, it's short and to the point. This is great entertainment with a cast of good actors, and there's plenty of other languages spoken to make it feel classier than the average action film. It's clever in many parts, and also pretty daring in terms of what Neeson does to the baddies once he finds them. Don't expect to find any Hollywood-style pandering to politically correct sensibilities!

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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