Twentieth Century Fox
At Quality 16 and Showcase
3 out of 5 stars
“Taken” appears to be an above-average action film — until you start thinking about it. Now, thinking about an action film is never a particularly good idea because it’s probably full of holes, and “Taken” is no exception.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson, “Batman Begins”) is a retired government agent trying desperately to live a normal life so he can get to know his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace, “The Fog”). His former job drove him to paranoia, so naturally he’s opposed to Kim jetting off with a friend to spend her summer in Paris. Sure enough, when they go, Kim and her friend are abducted by a gang of Albanians faster than Mills can say, “I told you so.”
It’s up to Mills to tear through Paris until he finds his daughter, who apparently has been sold into sexual slavery. He’s given only 96 hours to find her, which explains why he’s never seen eating, showering or even sleeping. In fact, Mills doesn’t seem to need to participate in any of these human practices; he acts more like Robocop or The Terminator than a flesh-and-blood person. But he’s surprisingly effective at what he does, considering that all the evidence he has to work with is a string of convenient coincidences.
When it comes to action, “Taken” definitely delivers. There are car chases, fistfights and ample explosions. The action scenes are also blissfully short so there’s no opportunity for them to get boring. Like any action film, the bad guys are sniveling weasels — caricatures whose departures won’t be mourned by anyone, least of all the audience. The film is less about these bad guys (none are even given names) and more about Neeson simply wreaking havoc on everything in his path. The man is surprisingly limber for his age; perhaps more action films will be in his future.
But then, inevitably, come the questions. How exactly is Mills not in any sort of trouble for the fact that he has destroyed a ton of Parisian property and killed dozens of bad guys, all on his own? What exactly is this government conspiracy he has stumbled upon? And who keeps hiring these henchmen? Obviously, nobody has been teaching them how to win a firefight: they can’t hit the broad side of a barn, and yet they’re defeated by the hero with one bullet. They could use some practice in a shooting gallery.
While the film is undeniably ridiculous, it’s hard to nitpick, except when it comes to the preposterously happy ending. Without giving it away, there is simply no way everything could return to normal after what transpires before the mushy conclusion. Like everything else in the movie, it’s best to simply accept the flawed finish.
Like most action films, “Taken” has its fair share of problems. And though it may be all action and little brains, it still gets the job done. Just don’t think too much into it.