Taken with Taken
It took a bit of time but when the credits began to roll I was taken with "Taken". The thing is that "Taken" is a movie which does one thing brilliantly, that is deliver stunning action scene after stunning action scene. But then all the stuff which goes in between the set up, the actual storyline, even some of the acting seems distinctly lacking. This means that for the first twenty minutes as the storyline sets itself up "Taken" is a rather uneasy, dull movie to watch and then wham we get the first real action scene and it turns into a non stop ride of stunning action.
Having retired as a CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson - Seraphim Falls) is desperate to forge and bond with his estranged 17 year old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace - Murder in Greenwich) but is less than impressed when he learns that she will be spending the summer in Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy). But Bryan's CIA training is called into action when shortly after arriving in Paris Kim and Amanda are kidnapped by a gang of Albanian's into human trafficking. With little to go on Bryan rushes to Paris from his home in California and sets about tracking down the gang and whilst saving his daughter dispensing revenge on anyone who gets in his way.
As already mentioned the first 20 minutes of "Taken" are a bit shaky as it tries to set up the storyline and characters. There is just something wrong and it's hard to put your finger on it. Liam Neeson seems unsure how to play the estranged father figure, looking very uncomfortable trying to find the right emotion of a parent who has missed out on their daughter growing up, whilst his ex wife and daughter almost comes across like a cliche. It's as if director Pierre Morel wasn't sure himself on how this build up should come across and as such it doesn't really work.
Thankfully after those twenty minutes of build up and character introductions "Taken" kicks into gear as action takes precedence over everything else. And in many ways it's a good thing as the actual storyline is flawed most notably in the way that Bryan manages to use the smallest of detail to track down his daughter, at times coming across as almost laughable.
But it is the action the high speed chase scenes, the martial arts fuelled fights and some violent use of guns and torture where "Taken" comes into its own. It is exciting stuff and it does get you gripped as we watch snappy fight scenes with Liam Neeson looking far more comfortable when he is dispatching bad guys with some powerful punches. And whilst you could say that car chases and fights is predictable there is almost a brutality to the action leaving you bordering on the shocked when you see someone killed. In particular a torture scene where a bad guy is interrogated in a make shift electric chair really catches you by surprise.
Unfortunately when there is no action things do go a bit wrong and whilst the actual storyline tries to throw a few twists none of them are exciting. It is the same problem that causes the build up of the movie to feel wrong because director Morel seems unsure how to cope with anything other than the action which he does so well. In many ways it's fortunate that the majority of "Taken" is taken up with action scenes because if it had been the other way around it would have barely been an average movie.
As already mentioned Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills seems to struggle in the opening section, unsure how to deliver the emotion of the estranged father. Maybe it was a good performance because Neeson comes over ill at ease in the parenting stakes which could be in fitting with someone who has no idea on things but it just feels wrong. Thankfully when the action arrives Neeson looks awesome delivering power in every single punch as he beats up bad guys. And to be honest "Taken" is all about Neeson and so the likes of Maggie Grace as daughter Kim and Leland Orser as Sam just fade into the background.
What this all boils down to is that "Taken" is a good movie if all you want is big action scene after big action scene. But beyond the action "Taken" is surprisingly weak and director Pierre Morel seems unsure of how to deal with the actual storyline. As such "Taken" is exciting and occasionally shocking when it comes to action but struggles with everything else and if you watch it expecting a clever action thriller the chances are you will end up disappointed.