Taken
Have you seen this girl? She’s “Lost”.

Theatrical Release Date: 02/27/2008 (France), 01/30/2009 (USA)
Director: Pierre Morel
Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Olivier Rabourdin, Arben Bajraktaraj

For those of you who are big Luc Besson “action first, script second” films, there’s a doozy out there for you and it’s name is “Taken”. And although Besson is only a writer/producer on this gig, pairing with the director of the surprisingly quality action flick “District B13” (Pierre Morel) has made for an entertaining popcorn flick that delivers on its premise – for the most part.

In the film, Darkman … I mean, Liam Neeson … is an ex-special agent who specialized in preventing kidnappings and generally being a badass. After serving his country, the result is a broken family life that includes divorcing Famke Janssen and becoming somewhat estranged from his own daughter (Maggie Grace). Of course, in order to give the film the necessary push towards everything one would expect, Grace goes on a vacation to Europe with a friend of hers and they fall into the hands of some very bad men. This brings Neeson into play and from that point on, audiences can revel in his determined quest to leave a trail of bodies in his wake as he attempts to recover his daughter.

Make no mistake, this film isn’t meant for audiences who want plausible relationship dynamics or a script that feels like it went through the necessary rewrite process. But that probably doesn’t come as too much of surprise to savvy filmgoers and it shouldn’t be why you’re interested in checking out the flick.

What “Taken” does well is let Neeson off the leash of being the good guy and instead follows him down a path of death and moral flexibility. He’s not shy about his tactics and focused only on recovering his daughter before any harm befalls her. If someone needs to be tortured, Neeson will do it. If someone needs to be shot, Neeson will do it. Even if it takes collateral damage to innocents, Neeson will do it.

That’s what makes the film so much fun … it’s all about Neeson kicking ass. Sure, there’s a subplot about selling girls into slavery and it takes far too long for the film to get to the action elements but if you stick with it through the first thirty minutes (which are pretty terrible and anything but deep), action junkies will be rewarded.

Now, I’m not saying this is the finest action pic in years or anything quite so dramatic. However, if all you want is some mindless action, “Taken” is worth a look and I’m giving it a 3 out of 5. Having seen the International version, I’d recommend waiting for the unrated DVD which is supposed to dirty up the watered down PG-13 take that made it into U.S. Theaters. Though, in checking out some online boards, the only key differences are a deleted scene of little importance, a longer torture scene and slightly more graphic deaths. If you don’t need that, don’t feel too put out in seeing the cut American audiences flocked to over the last month.