Taken (2008) starring Liam Neeson and a host of unsavory characters is a bang-up thriller along the lines of the Bourne series except it stars an old guy and the vengeance is stronger. This is the kind of feel-good movie that fits snuggly between Steel Magnolias and Titanic on your DVD/Blu-ray shelf. Except that “feel-good” part only comes after you decide to eBay Steel Magnolias and Titanic because they do not belong on your DVD/Blu-ray shelf. Sadly, you won’t get anything for the movie about a lot of women talking about a lot of things and things happening to a lot of women and we’re sure there’s more but we’re not interested in thinking any more on the topic, and another movie about a big boat and an iceburg. Nonetheless, when the other two are gone, there is now room for Snatch and Terminator Salvation. And there’s your feel-good moment.
Perhaps in some of us there is a streak of righteous anger against those that harm the innocent. A movie like Taken is cathartic. Film is about story-telling and because (in this case) the story is fictional, it’s easy for us to take pleasure in things that exist in fantasy but would be horrifying in reality. Enslavement and sexual assault (and murder) of young women by rich and corrupt men is enough to get most people’s blood boiling. Put that into the construct of a fictional story, and our anger is given place where it can be sated in an emotionally constrained environment. Perhaps in real life we would still feel an element of vengeance but it’s unlikely we would be as comfortable with it as we are sitting and watching it in a dark theater or room. The death and mayhem that ensue are satisfactory to most of us that like this sort of thriller because the formula doesn’t bother with the complexity of morality.
Interestingly, the lay person liked this film much more than critics did. Check out the ratings on RottenTomatoes (58% fresh with critics but 83% from the amateurs). So, the lesson learned is that perhaps Taken is fairly pedestrian but it strikes a resounding chord in that violent part of our souls and it does so magnificently well.
So, bottom line — why we like Taken: Feeling like life’s unfair because the selfish are winning? Watch Taken. The action is predictable but still loads of fun. Liam Neeson is a brute, even in his 50’s (?!); perfect for this film. The setting is Paris (ah, mon amour!). The bad guys are really bad and very bad things happen to them. Pretty much it.
***Looks like a sequel is in the works. Luc Besson has been pushing for the follow-up and rumor has it Liam will be back again as well as some of the other cast. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. The first movie was pretty tightly conclusive. It would be in poor taste to rehash another incident with Kim, his movie daughter. He doesn’t have another child and putting his ex-wife in a similar situation would be ridiculous. So, we’re not sure where the decision-makers are going with it. We wouldn’t mind seeing Liam’s character again kick the collective asses of East European human-traffickers and sinister sheikhs. Throw in Kim Jong Il and American businessmen that escape the law because they know the right people and have the right amount of money, and we’ll be in line for tickets. The operative question therefore is — will this be a Die Hard 2 or Live Free or Die Hard kind of sequel?***
When you’re done here check out the extended trailer for Taken (2008).