This afternoon, I traipsed back to my home town to see a movie with my friend Don, whom I haven’t seen much of lately. He suggested the movie “Taken,” starring Liam Neeson. I had not heard anything about the movie, but Don — who knows his films — assured me that it had received good reviews. I agreed.
So off we went. We sat, we watched. At the end, some of our fellow movie-goers applauded. I enjoyed myself, I assured Don. But not for the reason you might think.
Beware! Spoilers follow…..
“Taken” finds the daughter of ex-CIA agent Liam Neeson kidnapped in Paris by Albanians and held for sale into the white slave trade, and details Neeson’s efforts to save his daughter and her friend.
“Taken” is a terrible movie. Liam Neeson is a terrible fit for the “aggrieved parent / former CIA agent / action movie” genre. When people applauded, I looked at Don and said, loud enough for people to hear, “You have to be kidding me!” Some of those near us laughed nervously — after applauding, mind you.
The script was literally laughable at many points. I can imagine the screenwriter sitting at home using some sort of iLife-type program … “iHollywood Script” or some such … to assembly this dreck from stock story elements. It is filled with cliché after cliché, often delivered by Neeson without a hint of urgency or passion. His banter with his former CIA collegues, and his ex-wife and daughter, is, conversely, delivered with obviously false passion and good humor. He reminded me of a super-excited infomercial audience member at points.
There are many “great” (hint: sarcasm employed here) bits of dialogue throughout the film. I stifled my laughter at several points. Here, however, is the best exchange.
Neeson, as “Bryan Mills,” meets an old friend from French Internal Security. When he announces his plans to retrieve his kidnapped daughter, his French friend warns him not to “tear down Paris” in his pursuit.
“I WILL TEAR DOWN THE EIFFEL TOWER IF I HAVE TO!” Neeson replies, again almost bloodlessly.
Liam Neeson turned in an excellent performance in “Schindler’s List,” as the morally confused, yet ultimately upright, Oscar Schindler. I thought he was okay in “The Phantom Menace,” and I blamed any failures on his part on the directing of George Lucas (who deserves the scorn of the entire world for that series of abortions, plus his destruction of the Indiana Jones series). In “Taken,” however, Neeson simply wasn’t up to his usual standard. I wonder if this was perhaps a “paycheck” movie?
All that being said, I enjoyed myself because this entire movie was so ludicrous and laughable. I later told Don that it should be shown to film students as an example of how not to write a film. Further, I learned some very valuable things:
1. Jeeps cannot be hurt by any man-made weapon.
2. Nor can strung out, incoherent prostitutes lying in the back seat.
3. CIA agents travel with their own medical drips, needles, etc., to help bring addicts down so as to question them.
4. Albanians in France do not notice if, when claiming to be a French agent, you speak to them in slightly-British accented English.
5. You can leave France after committing multiple murders and other felonies with nary a whisper.
There are other lessons contained therein, of course, but these are the ones that stood out in my mind.
I’d be interested to hear any other opinions!