Luc Besson used to direct movies. He made one of the greatest western action films ever in Leon. Commonly known as The Professional in the US. But in the last while, Besson has spent most of his time writing and producing. Oh, and making Arthur and the Invisibles... Some of his recent projects haven’t exactly set the world on fire, but maybe Taken, directed by Pierre Morel will buck the trend.
Bryan is an ex-agent of some sort. We’re not given any indication as to what agency he worked for, but you can bet it involved shady operations. Whatever it was that Bryan did, it cost him his wife and daughter. Bryan is retired and now lives close to his daughter in order to build a relationship with her. He objects when she comes to him looking for permission to travel to Paris. He eventually changes his mind, but tells his daughter to keep in contact. The girl arrives in Paris. While on the telephone to her father, Kim and her friend are kidnapped by unknown assailants. Bryan leaps into action, calling on old friends and skills and leaving bloody mayhem in his wake as he searches for his daughter.
If Liam Neeson brings one thing to a film, it’s gravitas. But all the gravitas in the world can’t stop Taken from being an grotesque and frankly, hideously racist action film. Morel did a decent job with District 13, an over the top actioner that showcased Parkour, the sport of free-running. However, he’s tried to put brains to the action here, and instead, ended up with a dreadful script, frenetic and confusing camera work and a waste of Liam Neeson. The film tries to be dark as it uses human trafficking as it’s main plot device. It’s sometimes shocking in moments. But the gravity of the situation is somewhat lost by the ridiculous amount of bodies Liam Neeson leaves behind him on his quest.
It seems there are no consequences to peoples’ actions in Taken. No matter where Neeson goes, no matter who he batters, stabs or shoots, he’s able to walk away with neither a scratch nor a reprimand. And that’s even weirder considering one of the top policemen in Paris knows Neeson’s the one killing his way around France. The other thing that is baffling about the film is the level of racism. Not a single European or Middle Eastern person is portrayed as anything other than stupid, evil or corrupt. It seems everyone exists solely to get in Neeson’s way. At one point there is an American bad guy. But he’s dispatched with little more than a minute of screen time.
Neeson deserves, and can do better. Hell, he even made the woeful Phantom Menace entertaining. There’s no real excuse here. Unless Neeson thinks he’s getting on a bit and has to get the last few punches he can manage out of his system. But he’s still a massive, imposing presence on screen. It’s just a shame his burly nature wasn’t given more to do here. The rest of the cast are inconsequential. Seriously. Maggie Grace is purely a plot point as Neeson’s daughter. Famke Janssen just plays a bitch. Everything else is just set up for Neeson to act like Jack Bauer. If it’s agency-trained violence and torture you’re after, you’re better off watching a season of 24. Taken? Taken the piss more like.