Friday, 15 August 2008
A good vigilante movie takes our primal thirst for revenge and plays on it for all it's worth. Judged on that basis – and that’s the only real basis for an honest judgment of this film - Taken is a very good vigilante movie indeed. Not that it sells itself to us as such: Liam Neeson’s role is simply that of a good father (with a vast array of CIA-honed skills for tracking and neutralising bad guys) who quit his job as an international tough-guy to try and win back the teenaged daughter he barely knows. The bad news is that she wants to go on holiday in Europe and he's the only one who knows (and goes on and on and on) about how dangerous Europe is for sexy teenagers; the worse news is that pretty much the second she steps off the plane all his dire predictions come true as she's kidnapped by sex slavers. The good news for audiences is that this means he promptly gets on a plane, flies to Paris, and starts bashing, torturing, and murdering everyone who he sees as standing between him and his daughter. Of course it's totally ridiculous and borderline offensive clichés abound, including a return of an old favourite in the form of the Sleazy Sheik. But Neeson is always good value whatever the role and as the smouldering symbol of barely suppressed rage he’s both completely watchable and relatively believable considering he's playing an unstoppable killing machine. The action scenes are well staged and gritty (Neeson isn't a young man, but again, he's a believable arse-kicker), and there's a fairly high level of ruthlessness in his actions that keeps things from getting too stale and predictable. There's even a few moments of genuine shock as we see Neeson taking things just a little too far to get the job done. If a line exists, he'll cross it to get his daughter back; in a film like this, that's exactly what we want to see.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #433)