Monday, February 1, 2010

“Taken” – Fathers kick ass.

It’s refreshing to know that Hollywood can occasionally still surprise me. I tend to have preconceptions going into movies (no, really) and they usually contain very low expectations. That wasn’t the case here, I did expect good things from this movie, but I thought I had this movie figured out from the previews. Luckily, I followed my own advice and ignored all previews after the initial theatrical preview.

If you had seen any of the previews, you had a pretty good idea about what would happen in this film. Liam Neeson is some sort of secret agent whose daughter is kidnapped while in Paris. The scene they use to hook the audience shows Neeson talking to her while she is hiding from the kidnappers. While he is talking, he is setting up some gadgetry. He then tells her they are going to take her.

After seeing this, I immediately thought about what the twist would be. After all, how many movies today don’t have twists? My guess was that he was using his daughter as bait to catch some bad guy. This would have been the typical nonsense that Hollywood has been forcing upon us lately. Thankfully, I was wrong in my guess, as well as in expecting a twist at all.

This film differed from other recent films in that there was no twist or unbelievable circumstances. Neeson is actually a retired agent, at one point referring to himself as a preventer. The reason he is talking his daughter through the kidnapping is to try to get as much information as he can in order to track her down. The rest of the film has Neeson following leads and eventually recovering his daughter, killing a lot of people on his way.

What I liked about this film was that fact that there was no nonsense and no questions left at the end of the film. Plus, with a running time of an hour and a half, it was short and to the point. There was no time in which the audience is left thinking that they missed something.

I also liked the role Neeson played in this movie. Secret agent skills aside, Neeson was just a father willing to do anything to rescue his child. He didn’t care about rules or laws or even friendships. He even shoots his friend’s wife when he realizes that his friend is a part of the organization that has taken his daughter. I’d like to think that any father would react in the same way and I have no problem with this.

Even more surprising was the makeup and costume job done to make Maggie Grace look like a 17 year-old girl when she is actually 25. In addition, she did a fantastic job emulating the mannerisms that teenagers tend to portray. After her forgettable performances in “Lost” and “The Fog,” this came as just another pleasant surprise.

Despite the fact that this movie was very well done, there are a couple of things that I need to warn you about. The first is the reason for the kidnapping. Neeson eventually uncovers an underground trade market where young girls are sold to creepy rich guys for sex. It’s one of those things that is entirely too easy to believe happens in the real world and makes you cringe that people are that disgusting. Thankfully, Neeson kills a lot of them.

The other warning is that Famke Janssen may be aging worse than any woman in Hollywood. Remember how incredibly hot she was in “James Bond: Goldeneye” as Xenia Onatopp? That was 1995 and she was 31 at the time. Three years later she appeared in “Rounders” and you could already see something going awry. A couple of years after that came her role as Jean Grey in “X-Men.” Her age was hidden a little here, but it seemed to be last attempt. In the third X-Men film, she looked terrible (I know some of this was on purpose, but they didn’t have to try hard). Now, at 44, she looks as if she is deep into her 50s. So, if you were hoping to get a little eye candy there, you might want to close your eyes and just pretend it’s the James Bond version of her.

I really liked this movie, so I feel like this review has to end on a positive note. A lot of directors make the mistake of casting actors who have no business in action roles. I might have once believed this of Neeson, but his role in “Batman Begins” proved that he can kick some ass. If you were on the fence about seeing this film, that should give you a little extra motivation. After all, we all like to believe that our fathers can kick anyone’s ass.

Rating: This movie is worth the money simply because they don’t try to bullshit you. Hand over your ten bucks and enjoy the film.

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