Liam Neeson in Taken
By CAINE GARDNER
There are some movies that you have your heart set to love, unfortunately sometimes you get your heart broken. That would best describe what takes place in the thriller Taken, out on DVD Tuesday.
With zipping action sequences and some bone-chilling dialog, the trailer for Taken promised everything a viewer could want in a thriller.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired spy, or as he says, a retired preventor. When asked by his daughter what he prevented, he simply states "bad things from happening."
Mills has left government action in an effort to reconnect with his daughter and build a life he took for granted in her youth. As with every tale as such, one of the biggest obstacles in his way of building the relationship is a bitter ex-wife, played by Famke Janssen, who would rather give in to her daughter's whims than be a parent.
After learning that his daughter wants him to sign a release for her to travel in Europe, or more precisely Paris, Mills refuses, stating his knowledge of the dangers of the world. His daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) stereotypically runs off in tears, the mom throws down the guilt trip and the former spy takes the bait.
Moments after Kim arrives in Paris, she is kidnapped, thus beginning Mills' trek to Europe and a sleeping giant is awakened. He is informed he has 96 hours to track her down before she disappears forever.
Once arriving in the City of Lights, Mills learns of the involvement of an Albanian criminal organization and must move at lightning speed as the minutes tick away.
Mills uses his special skills to track down his daughter through drug-filled brothels, ending his quest at a high-priced auction house, where the merchandise of choice is young women. Along the way, he shows us new uses for six-inch nails.
Taken is a flick packed with action, suspense and contradictions. One moment the story and action are taut, then it spirals and frays, before finding its voice once again. This disjointed story arc wears on the viewer as the movie races to its conclusion.
Neeson does a well-enough job at transforming Mills from a gentle, fragile being, into a fierce wrecking ball that demolishes anything that happens to be in his path. Grace also has her moments, but I found it difficult to connect with her. The entire movie hinges on the viewer feeling for her and that is something that never develops.
Another element that dissolves the films credibility is the fact that Mills is able to achieve the majority of his goals with little interference. Just once, it would be nice to see a movie when the good guy has half the obstacles, but ones that are more difficult to overcome. Just once.
The film is co-written by French filmmaking heavyweight Luc Besson and directed by Besson disciple Pierre Morel. Morel got his start as a cameraman and was behind the camera for much of Taken. The director confesses in the supplemental materials that it's hard for him to delegate duties. It's that sense of control that could very well have derailed the flick.
A cool featurette in supplemental materials is a side-by-side comparison of shots from the film. It's interesting to see the various elements that go together to get a single, quick action sequence.
The DVD also offers two versions of the film, a PG-13-rated and an unrated version. I highly recommend going with the unrated version. A little cinematic carnage never hurt anyone.
Final Cut: A breathless pace gives the audience little time to examine a defunct story arc that tries its best to deliver and sometimes does with a vengeance. Taken, however, is a thriller that has offers a lot, but in the end, leaves the viewer begging for more.
3 out of 5 stars
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Luc Besson, Robert Kamen
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language.
* Inside Action: Side-by-Side Comparisons
* Avant Premiere
* Exclusive Le "Making of" featurette
Available on DVD and Blu-ray disk Tuesday