BOTTOM LINE: This is a deeply satisfying action film with a great story and cast. The only downside is that it’s been done before in films like the 80′s B-grade classic “Commando”. However, the style and sophistication of the story telling and action sequences, and Neeson’s powerful presence in the lead role, more than make up for its lack of originality.
THE GOOD: Liam Neeson picks up where Arnie left off, playing an ex-special forces soldier who has to rescue his daughter from a group of Albanian thugs who have sold her in to sexual slavery in Europe. Although this story is nothing new (if you don’t know why I referred to Arnold Schwarzenegger in my opening line, then go watch “Commando”), the refreshing aspects in this film reside in the sophistication of its story-telling in emulating the Bourne film series. Much of the film is set in France where Bryan (Neeson) tracks down some dangerous hoodlums who don’t heed his warning when he says he’s going to come after them after they kidnap his daughter. The casting of Liam Neeson in the title role was a masterstroke; not only is he as tough as they come, but he brings a warm, heart-felt feeling to his performance that adds a few more dimensions to what could have been a two-dimensional action flick. The film is set up in an unconventional way with Bryan living on his own, estranged from his wife (Famke Janssen) but on good terms with his daughter. The dynamics of the relationships between these characters are quite rich, which helps us get in to Bryan’s plight when he goes chasing the bad guys. From the start, you want to see Bryan take them all out one by one, and given what they have planned for his daughter, you really do want him to exact justice on these cowardly thugs. The filmmakers have done a great job of making each encounter Bryan has with his targets unique; one particularly satisfying scene occurs when Bryan meets up with the man he spoke to on the phone when his daughter was taken. Bryan calmly says, “you don’t remember do you? Did you really think I wouldn’t find you?” And then bang! All hell breaks loose! French director Pierre Morel makes his influence felt through the style and execution of the images and sequences (although the story has a Hollywood bent, much of the film feels European). The acting is first rate, and surprisingly, Holly Valance shows up in a supporting role and actually does a decent job. “Taken” is in essence a sophisticated version of “Commando”, and it’s a widely entertaining ride.
THE BAD: The only negative going against this film is that it’s not original. The most obvious example of a film with the same story is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s B-Grade action classic, “Commando”, where the big man had only 11 hours to save his daughter after she was kidnapped. A few details are different in “Taken” but essentially it’s the same thing. This isn’t really too bad because the style and casting of “Taken” more than make up for its lack of originality. If one were to nitpick, one might find it a tad unbelievable that one man is capable of doing so many things (ie the one man army), but that’s all part of the fun.
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Todd Murphy is a staff reviewer at the film/DVD review web site, All About Movies.net – for all the latest reviews on the newest releases. He is also an administrator for the web site: http://www.approachingsexywomen.com