‘Taken’ – Return of the ’80s action hero

‘Taken’ – Return of the ’80s action hero

Liam Neeson stars in Taken

Had “Taken” been made 20 years ago, Sylvester Stallone or Steven Seagal might have played the main character on the hunt for his missing daughter.

Instead, we get Liam Neeson, hardly anyone’s first choice for an action hero.

But the oddball casting is one reason why “Taken” is defying box office expectations.

Frankly, if every ’80s actioner had been this impeccably paced, the genre wouldn’t have run out of steam like it did.

Neeson plays Bryan Mills, who once worked as a “Preventer” for the government. He prevented bad things from happening, suffice to say. It’s the kind of vague job description that slips right through the film’s acres and acres of plot holes.

But ultimately audiences will skip right over most of them.

Bryan is retired now, and he spends every waking moment worrying about his sweet teenage daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). She’s kept at arm’s length from him by his Frigidaire of an ex (Famke Janssen needs to play a warm-hearted character – stat).

The overprotective pappy nearly loses it when he hears his daughter is going on an extended trip to Paris, but he can’t say no to his widdle, iddle girl, can he?

Within minutes of landing in France, Kim is kidnapped along with her girlfriend. And just as quickly Bryan is en route to save her, calling in every favor in the book to help him find her.

“Taken’s” setup hardly reinvents the action genre, though the execution is as crisp and sufficiently emotional. And the kidnapping sequence might be the best dozen minutes on screen in this young film year. It’s cold and deadly, and told in a way we haven’t seen countless times before. Bravo.

Neeson struggles to keep his Irish brogue at bay, but he’s never less than convincing when he’s smashing heads or integrating himself into the Paris underworld.

Strip away an annoying subplot involving a trendy pop star and you have a film with literally zero fat.

“Taken” features torture, implausible action and a 50-something star who, technically, should be starring in more serious features. The film ignores all of the above to deliver 90 blistering minutes of pure escapism.

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(Photo: Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, an ex-government operative who has less than four days to find his kidnapped daughter in “Taken.” Photo credit: Stephanie Branchu)

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Synner_manNo Gravatar February 17, 2009 at 3:27 am

Liam Neeson showed signs of being an action hero in the early ’90s with “Rob Roy” and “Darkman,” but the closest predecessor to this role was the forgotten “Next of Kin” (1989). He played Patrick Swayze’s badass hillbilly brother, who’s come to the city to avenge their brother murdered by mobsters. I’m surprised it has taken someone this long to give him a similar role.

cftotoNo Gravatar February 17, 2009 at 6:25 am

Neeson’s “Dark Man” was one of the better, albeit quirky, superhero films before the “Batman” golden age. He sure has the size to be an action hero — I met him once and he’s a big guy — but he seemed like he was past the age for such parts. “Taken” proved that wrong.

One VoiceNo Gravatar February 18, 2009 at 4:44 am

When the credits rolled, and the lights went up, the audience in the theater was still applauding!

Give us more, more more!!! More Liam Neeson, and more features with someone we can cheer for!

SojournerNo Gravatar February 18, 2009 at 5:46 am

While like a good action as much as the next guy, the one problem I had with the film is that no one gives him much of a fight until the very last baddie. It was just like the old Steven Seagall movies–nobody ever touched him, which made the struggle much less interesting.

cftotoNo Gravatar February 18, 2009 at 6:32 am

Excellent point, Sojourner … while it’s a blast to see Neeson in action, toward the end he becomes like a super hero … no one can lay a glove on him.

christopherNo Gravatar February 20, 2009 at 9:06 am

“Instead, we get Liam Neeson, hardly anyone’s first choice for an action hero.”

you must have missed him as ra’s al ghul. obviously someone noticed.

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