Your minutes are up! Liam Neeson adds an optional extra to his cell phone's Family Plan, killing and torturing to find his daughter.
Is there anything cooler than hearing a guy with a refined European accent calmly talk a bunch of smack to an opponent? Decades of James Bond movies have proven there isn't, so the marketers of the new movie Taken used a clever attention grabbing gimmick for their TV advertisements: put up uncut almost 2 minutes of the movie where Liam Neeson's daughter is kidnapped followed by Neeson threatening the kidnapper over a cell phone. It's a great stunt, the ad comes on TV in a way that you think maybe the station is playing the wrong show and the scene totally hooks you. "I don't know what you want, if it's ransom you want I don't have any money. But what I do have is a particular set of skills, skills from a long career of being a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go, that will be the end of it. I will not pursue you. But if you don't let my daughter go, I will pursue you, I will find you and I will kill you." That's not a word for word transcription, what I just typed is entirely based on memory from the ads and seeing the movie yesterday. That's how kick ass hearing Liam Neeson in his Irish accent is when he's talking sh*t to an evil opponent. The scene was so good that during the movie you could feel the audience excitement swell when it happened and some people cheered after Neeson reeled off his fancy trash talk.
This hook explains why the movie theater was crowded when my wife and I saw Taken. While the rest of the movie doesn't hit the high that the trailer scene does, it is a fun if implausible action romp. The set up is simple, ex-spy Liam Neeson is trying to build a relationship with his estranged daughter. The seventeen year old daughter asks for permission to visit Paris with a friend. Reluctantly, Neeson agrees and the daughter gets kidnapped the first day she's in the city of lights. The ex-spy uses his old contacts and "particular set of skills" to try to rescue his daughter knowing that after 96 hours the trail will be too cold to ever find her.
Like the trailer, the movie Taken does not have much to offer in way of substance. This type of story has been done many times before, Schwartzenneger, Seagal, Norris, Ford and a multitude of other action heroes have rescued their loved ones from harms way. There are plenty of holes in the story along with a cluster of only-in-the-movies coincidences that favor the hero. And while the movie does go into the seamy underworld of sex slave trading and prostitution, it exists as a backdrop more than social commentary. Hand to hand combat, vehicle chases and automatic weapons fire have been done on screen for ages. So what does Taken have to offer?
Well, a "particular set of skills". Mainly, Liam Neeson. After years of playing the Voice of Conscience and getting his butt whupped by Darth Maul on Naboo its a thrill to see Neeson finally get to kick ass. Taken is all about identifying with Neeson and he makes the movie work. Neeson's seething rage and inconsolable worry hidden under a mask of mental focus and spy trained strategies takes the audience along for a good ride. As the audience we want Neeson, the unapologetic American hero with an Irish accent, kill and torture as many bad guys as possible to find his daughter because he makes us feel the pain.
Director Pierre Morel wisely keeps Neeson in every scene so you see things strictly from his character's point of view. Morel keeps the story moving at warp speed to glaze over the script's deficiencies and does Neeson a huge solid by using quick cuts in the action segments to put his character over as a middle aged Jason Bourne type (every time Neeson goes into hand to hand the editing goes cut cut cut in rapid succession to make it seem fast). The clockwork timing on fake outs and lightning fast martial arts moves are all there. Good money gets spent creating realistic looking sets allowing Morel to delve into the grit.
Taken is a B action movie dressed up with a decent budget. But it works, works pretty well in fact. All that trash Neeson talks in the trailer gets backed up to satisfaction and I found it more effective than the recent James Bond movie to boot. As far as action films go, Taken is good stuff that will pump you up with adrenalin. Creatively, this is Neeson setting up retirement plan options- he can continue doing this type of character for years on made for basic cable movies if he wants to now. Talk that fancy smack Liam!