Review by Jack Foley
LIAM Neeson may not seem like the obvious choice to play a retired government agent with a set of fight skills to rival Jason Bourne. But then the same thing was probably said about Matt Damon when he was initially cast in the same type of role.
Taken may not be in the same class of movie as the Bourne franchise, but it does boast some similarly impressive action set pieces and is a genuine guilty pleasure. And most of that’s because of Neeson.
Bryan (Neeson) is a retired government agent desperate to get back into the life of his estranged teenage daughter (Maggie Grace). When she is kidnapped moments after arriving on holiday in Paris, Bryan is forced to act fast in order to retrieve her before she is sold as a sex slave.
Using the skills he had been hoping to leave behind, he sets about hunting down those responsible and killing them… all the while edging closer to a family reunion.
Based upon a screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Kamen, and directed by Pierre Morel, Taken is a no-nonsense chase movie that’s as ferocious as it is, at times, preposterous.
Neeson’s brooding presence lends the film a gravitas it doesn’t always merit, while his physical ability is likely to leave the jaws of many action fans (and sceptics) on the floor. He really seems to be taking a perverse pleasure in cracking as many heads as possible, even resorting to shooting a woman in a bid to get the answers he needs.
Neeson draws on the memory of characters such as Bourne and Jack Bauer as he cuts a swathe across Paris, yet imbues his Bryan with a tender side too – as exemplified in his early dealings with his daughter.
Of the many criticisms, however, Neeson is occasionally sold short by some of his supporting cast – Grace, especially, fails to convince as a teenager – while the lack of a notable adversary deprives it of any real emotional complexity.
The ease with which Bryan is able to trace people is also likely to generate some unwanted sniggers, as is some of the set-up (which feels hopelessly contrived).
But for those willing to put their brains in neutral and enjoy the adrenaline-rush of watching Bryan/Neeson go about his business in such ruthless fashion, this is one of the more enjoyable examples of its type of cinema. Go and indulge yourself… it’s a terrific stress reliever.
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 9, 2009