- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
e critics tend to give 20th Century Fox a lot of flack, but you can’t say they haven’t earned it for the number of bad movies they put out each year. How curious, then, that “Taken,” the one good film they do make (and a proven box office success overseas), not only gets pushed from its original release date, but then gets dumped into the cinematic cesspool of January with almost no marketing. Way to go, Fox. If there’s any proof the studio really is being run by a bunch of monkeys, this is it, because “Taken” might just be one of the best action thrillers of the last decade.
Liam Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, an ex-CIA agent who has given up his career and moved to Los Angeles in order to be closer to his 17-year-old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who now lives with her mother (Famke Janssen) and wealthy stepdad (Xander Berkeley). When Kim asks Bryan to sign a waiver allowing her to go on a month-long trip to Paris, he’s hesitant at first, knowing full well of the dangers that exist in the world. Eventually, though, he agrees, but only under the condition that she follow his strict set of rules. As it turns out, Bryan's apprehensions were completely warranted, as Kim and her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) are snatched up within hours of setting foot in Paris by a group of traffickers in the prostitution trade. Now, Bryan has 96 hours to find his daughter before she’s gone forever, and he’ll use whatever means necessary to get her back.
With the “Bourne” series on hiatus and the third installment of “Transporter” proving to be even more ridiculous than the last, it’s nice to see a movie like “Taken” come along that incorporates elements of both franchises into a darker action thriller where the protagonist is more Jack Bauer and less James Bond. In fact, while the Fox drama may be trying to get away from the subject of torture by having its lead character constantly scrutinized for his questionable interrogation tactics, “Taken” embraces it with the most seat-squirming torture scene since “Casino Royale.” Of course, Neeson’s character doesn’t have that much time to waste, so most of the movie adopts the kind of quick and sharp action that the “Bourne” series made famous. A chop to the throat here, a break of the neck there; whatever it takes to dispose of your enemy and keep moving.
And move he does. Though the film takes some time to get going, once Neeson arrives in Paris, the 91-minute runtime flies by like its stuck on fast-forward. That’s because the script (co-written by Luc Besson) only has one thing on its mind, and that’s watching Liam Neeson beat the living shit out of anybody who gets in his way. Thankfully, the generic story is easier to swallow due to the involvement of Neeson, who lends the same kind of credibility to the role that Matt Damon did with Jason Bourne. The other actors don’t fare quite as well (the idea of Maggie Grace as a teenager is laughable), but that’s hardly the point. Director Pierre Morel has crafted one helluva genre flick with "Taken," and though Fox might not want anything to do with it, you’d be crazy if you didn’t.
Extended Cut Blu-Ray Review:
Already one of the best movies of the year, the two-disc release of “Taken” is also now one of the best Blu-rays, delivering a nice treat for fans of the film with a small but strong collection of bonus material. Leading the pack are two audio commentaries (one with director Pierre Morel and cinematographer Michel Abramowicz, and one with co-writer Robert Mark Kamen), and though the former is recorded completely in French with English subtitles, it’s easily the better of the two. Also included is a really cool picture-in-picture “Black Ops Field Manual” that tracks the main character’s geographic location, number of people killed and injured, distance travelled, and the estimated time remaining for his mission. There's also a standard making-of featurette, side-by-side comparisons of the final product versus on-set production, and a digital copy of the film.