Taken (review)

It doesn’t quite live up to the promise of that most awesomest of trailers, but almost. After a slow start — though one that’s quite charming, actually, in how it creates a tender, tentative relationship between ex-hardass spook Liam Neeson (Seraphim Falls) and the 17-year-old daughter (Maggie Grace: The Jane Austen Book Club) he’s trying to reconnect with — the action kicks in, as she finds herself kidnapped by Bad Men during a trip to Paris and Dad resolves to kick some Bad Men butt to get her back. He is coolly competent, like MacGyver on steroids — he can hotwire a car, run an IV, torture a villain, and look great doing it — and far more shockingly ruthless than we expect from our action heroes. It all moves so swiftly and so surely that you never realize how ridiculous it is at the time. It’s only after that you go, Hmmm, and note how retro its ideas about feminine “purity” are — the movie revels in taunting us with the possibility of Daddy’s Little Girl being ravished unless he can save her in time. Neeson stops, at one point, in a little photo booth in a Metro station to do the kind of photo enhancement that a movie mere years ago would have had performed by a geek explaining what he was doing at every step of the way. How far the technologies available to our cinematic heroes have come! And how not far at all have advanced the moral atmosphere he navigates. Thank god for Neeson’s tough proficiency — and Grace’s unforced sweetness — making it all so much better than it probably deserves to be.

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