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"Taken" as it is

Movie title: Taken (2008)
Grade: B- (3 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: A government agent goes on a search for his kidnapped daughter.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Taken has its share of problems. Whoever wrote the dialogue should be shot by firing squad. The souls responsible for about one-third of the acting should be put in the stocks for the better part of a hot afternoon. There are enough scenes of guns getting knocked out of hands in door-jams to make you want to petition the president to reopen GITMO just for the director. The writing behind the story itself is less than stellar, but these are my only complaints. Everything else was a rollercoaster ride of violent action, a jaw-clenching fighting flick that pets the ego.

While these faults without doubt mount a strong attack against the quality of the film, I am willing to forgive them. Yes, some movies do get a pass for their faults while others do not. Get over it! We critics do that! ☺

The plot, though obviously contrived, is decent. That is, this sort of thing can and does happen. But seeing it play out on screen speaks to the primal side of man, to the desire for vengeance, torture, and bloodlust. It doesn't put itself forward with a measure of great self-importance, nor is it merely an excuse to get to the action. Rather, the plot makes the action satisfying.

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) spent a long and rich career as a CIA spy. He's well trained, but retired and taking local security work to stay close to his daughter in the U.S. He’s divorced from Lenore (Famke Janssen), who has a new and very wealthy husband, Stuart (Xander Berkeley). Trying to keep close ties on his daughter of 17, Kim (Maggie Grace), he stays in her life and watches out for her. Maybe he’s a little paranoid, but it’s about to come in handy. When she and girlfriend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) take a trip to Paris, the thing dad feared most happens.

The two beautiful young women are abducted by businessmen who don't look back. They've abducted who knows how many women and gotten away with it, but Bryan's daughter made one too many. Bryan lives for making these kinds of bastards pay. It's what he does! He keeps in shape for guys like this. He's right there, waiting in the shadows, with awesome technology at his aid and connections in high places. Maybe he's related to Jack Bauer somehow? You feel that on screen. You get into that mood.

The combat sequences are fast and boast some fundamental wrestling maneuvers—a very Navy Seal-ish thing to have. Other moves, like knee hits and elbow strikes, show advanced knowledge of real hand-to-hand fighting skill that is still humanly attainable. The know-how and the determination to win both come out and nothing done is impossible, though a few shoot-out scenes border on the improbable. It's an action flick, but it's not mindless. It entertains…and then some.

Despite notable flaws, in Taken, you get what you came to see. That’s the important thing. On that basis alone, I’ll “take” it just as it is.

(JH)

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Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: Liam Neeson “Bryan Mills,” Famke Janssen “Lenore,” Leland Orser “Sam,” Radivoje Bukvic “Anton (as Rasha Bukvic),” Mathieu Busson “Undercover agent,” Holly Valance “Sheerah,” Katie Cassidy “Amanda,” Xander Berkeley “Stuart,” Nicolas Giraud “Peter,” Maggie Grace “Kim”
Genre: Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller

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