Taken is one hell of a kick-ass action thriller. It's a thoroughly satisfying dose of an adrenalized revenge fantasy, though a stinkin' guilty pleasure because it feels like what Dick Cheney would watch over and over again from his undisclosed rec room bunker.
Indeed, Taken's xenophobic machismo and world-weary paranoia is so very pre-Nov. 4 Republican, and its bloodthirsty vigilantism is straight out of the "make my day" red meat '80s, but the swift and brutally efficient set pieces are all state-of-the-moment slickness.
Actually, the flick's pretty much one long set piece, after an embarrassingly clunky setup that sees Liam Neeson's black-ops super warrior Bryan Mills in uneasy retirement to be closer to Kim, the teen daughter (Maggie Grace) he has neglected for years. He takes a security gig guarding a pop princess for the easy money and to get career tips to help his daughter's singing dreams, and just maybe get back in the graces of his remarried ex, Famke Janssen. To help build goodwill, Bryan signs off on Kim's summer romp in Paris, despite his protests about how dangerous the big scary world can be, a pessimism that immediately pays off when Kim and pal are abducted almost as soon as their plane lands. The girls have fallen victim to a nasty Albanian gang that (shades of Hostile) specializes in auctioning off virgins to evil sheiks and other oily plutocrats, all of whom are about to fall victim to one pissed-off and ruthless papa.
The plot runs on autopilot, but the fun is in watching Neeson dismantle a small army of thugs, creeps and corrupt French cops who get in his way, with a bag of dirty tricks that'd make Jack Bauer applaud and give Ann Coulter a boner.
Credit an old dog for new tricks, as fiftysomething Neeson dispatches bad guys with blunt force, speed and style in a manner that rivals whippersnappers Bourne and Bond. He gets help from Morel's agile direction and Besson's knack for brisk Euro-trash action, honed by the Transporter series. It's all fun but improbable, except when Besson tries to make us swallow the notion that two teenage girls want to follow a U2 tour; that's not improbable ... it's plain silly.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].