Whoa, who knew Liam Neeson was such a hard ass, but then his parental tendency to kick ass and take names when his daughter is kidnapped is never an element that distracts viewers with the believability, mainly because it’s Liam Neeson, a man in his fifties who struts around the film as the hero who is a change of pace from young male models and wrestlers who normally dominating the big screen. Neeson is an antidote to all the barely past puberty action pukes and convinces us that he’ll kill anyone and everyone if you take from him. It’s a true testament that Neeson simply knocks this role out of the park.
“Taken” however feels like Luc Besson was behind the scenes injecting his own flow and skill. Imagine my surprise when his name popped up in the credits. “Taken” makes no illusions that it’s deeper than we see on the trailer, but it does thankfully fill in the dramatic motivation behind the plot of a parent desperately looking for his daughter in 96 hours after she’s kidnapped and sold in to sex slavery. Director Pierre Morel takes us through the underbelly of various English and Parisian landmarks as Neeson looks to mercilessly destroy any and everyone who stands in his way. This leaves us with a searing bit of biting tension and atmosphere as his rush is met with endless henchmen, mob bosses, and even the authorities who set themselves up against Neeson’s character.
If the casting of Matt Damon as Jason Bourne was a shot out of the park, Neeson holds his own as an aged ex-spy who uses his own skills to gather clues and find out why his daughter has been taken. Neeson’s choreography and character makes the film such an achievement and it’s a blast to see him putting down the sleaze in the UK. Though plagued with the dumbest villains ever to grace the screen, Neeson shines along side co-star Maggie Grace who convinces as a teenager and aces her part as a victim of crime ring who pleads for help and is taken through the shredder by violent traffickers. I had a blast sitting through “Taken” and while it’s not perfect, it’s one I’ll be seeking when it comes to DVD here in the states. Pierre Morel’s direction is great with an energy highly derivative from Luc Besson’s own which is forgiven when Neeson comes on screen and reminds us that a skilled actor who works wonders as an action star and ex spy. Truly it’s one of my favorites of 2008.