Starring Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace. Rated 14A.
Writer-producer Luc Besson has made more films by proxy than he has actually directed himself. As a general rule, the French-language half of his multinational franchise is heavier on the laughs while the anglophone component is keener on the violence. What both sets of popcorn movies have in common is a shared obsession with fast cars and leggy young beauties.
Watch the trailer for Taken.
Directed by Pierre Morel and coscripted by Besson’s usual American writing partner (Robert Mark Kamen, still best known for The Karate Kid), Taken is a little nastier than most of the French mogul’s cinematic confections. This is because it deals with the kidnapping of a couple of American teenagers in Paris by a gang of Albanian mobsters involved in the white slave trade. One of these abductees (Maggie Grace) turns out to be the daughter of retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), an overprotective father who will do literally anything to get her back. So he travels to Paris and the Albanian mortality rate starts to rise alarmingly within minutes of his emergence from the airport.
Because of its high body count, Taken can’t help but remind viewers of the Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger revenge flicks of yore. Fortunately, because his face has visibly aged, the star of the film no longer has to hide his immensely sympathetic eyes behind dark shadows (as he did in Schindler’s List). On the down side, Morel’s tin ear for English dialogue allows the Irish-born star to let even more of his brogue sneak out than usual. As for Kamen, he’s presumably responsible for the script’s puritan subtext (the more sexually adventurous of the two teenagers suffers the most) and anti-Muslim bias.
Of course, none of this will matter much to hard-core action fans. Taken does what it’s supposed to do. Only this and nothing more (with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe).