is subtly menacing for a cookout. A group of craggy-faced
guys banter about their work—Beirut was the good ol’
days—and tease their host, Bryan (Liam Neeson), about his
retirement. Bryan is reluctant to reminiscence, having just
been one-upped on his daughter’s birthday by her wealthy stepfather.
And he’s still stinging from being reminded by his 17-year-old
daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke
Janssen), that he wasn’t around for her upbringing. When Kim
asks what it was that he did, Bryan, a former CIA operative,
replies, “I was a preventer.”
isn’t able to prevent Kim from an indulgent trip to Europe
with an even more excitable friend, despite his paternal and
professional misgivings. Sure enough, the girls are abducted
on their first night in Paris, and Bryan receives a terrifying
call from Kim that requires his steeliest calm. Over her cell
phone he tells one of the thugs about his “special set of
particular skills” in a tone of voice that could freeze blood.
But as he finds out within hours, when he starts tracking
Kim on the rough edges of Paris, the abductors are part of
a gang of Albanians known to be the most ruthless in Europe.
And they don’t want ransom—they’re sex-slave traffickers.
by Pierre Morel, a Luc Besson protégé (Besson co-wrote the
screenplay), Taken has the fast pace and convincing
action choreography of previous Besson films, especially The
Transporter. But Taken is a grimmer, more relentless
piece of work, with nongratuitous glimpses of an international
forced-prostitution racket that ranges from drugged girls
being violated behind burlap partitions to a closed- circuit
auction of the prettiest girls to billionaires. Bryan is resourceful
with cell phones and pocketknives, but mostly, he uses brute
strength and fatherly fearlessness to operate as a one-man
special-forces unit to hunt down the traffickers. Aside from
Neeson, Taken is a competent but somewhat implausible
actioner, though it does show one maneuver that’s so simple
and effective it’s surprising that it hasn’t been filmed before.
And Neeson has a moment or two of clenched-jaw humor, telling
an Albanian he’s torturing, “We used to outsource this kind
bruising 6-foot-4, Neeson (a boxer in his youth) is more powerfully
combative than almost any action star, and his acting talent
makes him even more fearsome, as he memorably displayed in
Batman Begins. Taken doesn’t give him enough
material to make Bryan a real character, but Neeson’s gruff
baritone at full belligerence is more adrenalizing than a
movie’s worth of car crashes.