A lot of movies promise to be a lot of things. All of the previews for Taken promised that it would be a non-stop action thriller. While it delivers really well on that promise, unfortunately, I can’t recommend this movie to everyone. To enjoy it, the viewer needs to be looking for a very specific type of movie.
It’s an unrealistic, brutal action movie where you can go in knowing Liam Neeson is going to kill everyone. The premise is that he is a former government operative and his daughter is kidnapped. That’s really the only background the movie needs. Through his actions, you find out that “operative” means “Rambo.” And thank goodness for that.
Taken is a success because it does not waver from what it’s trying to be. It is an action movie, and it stays an action movie. There’s no irritating, badly scripted love story tie-ins and no adventure-turns-boy-into-a-man motifs — it is a vigilante killing a whole lot of people.
The action, of course, is very important. All the fighting must be exciting and enjoyable. Thankfully, the director, Pierre Morel, is not new to the genre. He was the cinematographer for War, Unleashed and The Transporter. His experience shows. Throughout the film, it is always fun to see the new ways he takes people down to pieces, whether it’s just with his hands and feet or when he brings props into the equation.
Possibly the most satisfying characteristic of Neeson’s character is the lack of hesitancy he shows throughout the story. Kill people? Yeah, he’ll do that without blinking. Torture? As long as he gets what he needs, yup, he’ll torture people. But his most ruthless moments come when he’s not fighting the gangsters, but rather when other people are hindering him. He is brutal and efficient and will not be deterred in the search for his daughter. The most frustrating moment in any action movie is when the whole audience is trying to will a character to man-up and do what they need to do. Taken never provides a moment like that; in fact, Neeson has probably killed the infringing character before the audience even realizes they actually need to die.
With such a vicious character inflicting so much pain on his enemies, a fair question is: How big of a badass can Neeson play? He’s the wise old teacher in Star Wars and the suit-wearing mastermind in Batman, but can he really turn into a guy that will pile a mountain of bodies underneath him to reach his goal? Yes, Neeson plays the part well. In fact, the most uncomfortable acting moments are when he’s trying to be a civil retiree to his ex-wife. He falls into his groove when he loses the happiness and personable facade, and starts murdering people by the dozens.
This isn’t a movie everyone should see. If you can’t stomach torture, if you think innocent people should never be shot and if you don’t want to see people’s arms and legs broken in sixty different ways, you will want to avert your eyes from this movie so often that it would not be worth seeing. But if you want to see a rampage of an action flick, I can heartily recommend Taken.