Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Taken" Heats Up Winter Months

A lot is to be expected when Luc Besson, the man responsible for action heavies such as Leon: The Professional, gets behind production. Whether it be directing, writing, producing or a few of those titles combined, action fans can expect the best from Besson. Besson’s latest project, Taken, a film he both wrote and produced, is no slouch in comparison to other notable projects of his such as The Transporter and District 13.

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a father struggling for the love and acceptance of his daughter. Against his better judgment he allows his daughter to go to Paris with a friend. When his daughter and friend are taken by men involved with trafficking women, Mills, a former spy and preventer of “bad things”, heads to Paris and revisits the skills that make him dangerous in an attempt to retrieve his daughter.

There’s no beating around the bush here. Taken is badass. Neeson absolutely steals the screen giving his best old man tour de beat ‘em up impression. All the way through Neeson is absolutely fierce, energetic and convincing. Director Pierre Morel, who reteams with Besson for their second film together, does a good job handling the action scenes. Never are they so disorienting that lack of focus is lost from the important action scenes that make this film as entertaining as it is.

As fun as it is, Taken is as straightforward as action films come. Besson’s script involving the trafficking of women in foreign countries is slightly exploitative in the fact that it simply uses it as a trigger device for the action. This is not a social commentary piece on the dangers of these all too serious events, which must be understood to not be too critical on the film’s simple story.

The script can also be found suspect if you crave realism in your films. The way Mills attempts to track down his daughter can only be enjoyed with a high suspension of disbelief. What Mills needs to have happen happens and the information he needs to find is given to him. Fact of the matter is this film is a gritty revenge tale and straightforwardness and a little implausibility does nothing to take away from the enjoyment that is to be had from watching a 56-year-old Liam Neeson kick the crap out of criminal scum in gauntlet fashion.

The unique thing about Taken is that since it’s not an American produced film it was released here in our homeland much later than it was in other countries. My theatrical viewing of this film was my second viewing and I must say that it held up quite nicely. This all comes despite the fact that the film was released in the states with a PG-13 rating. No actual scenes were cut from the film but a few of the sequences were limited down a tad.

It’s always disappointing to see a film of this nature get cut to a PG-13 rating and it isn’t just because we want more blood. The tampering with the action and torture sequences disturbs the emotion of the film, one of the most important aspects of Taken. The revenge Mills is seeking can still be felt but even the few select cut moments would add more to it. If no other version of this film existed I’d have no qualms, so take it as a grain of salt when judging this film.

Taken is one of the surprise films of the last year. It starts a bit slow so when the nearly nonstop action comes at you you’re even more taken aback by its high adrenaline nature. Do not let the tame PG-13 rating fool you. Things are still a bit grisly and the action is exciting and fulfilling. Taken, led by Neeson’s demanding and dominating performance and Morel’s cool and calm directing, should certainly be experienced by anyone looking to fill their hunger for revenge.

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