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Taken (DVD)

Starring: Liam Neeson.

Rated: 18.

Story: Bryan Mills, an ex-spy, attempts to live a normal life and get to know his seventeen-year-old daughter (much of whose childhood he missed because he was too busy explosively fixing things in far-flung countries).

When she is kidnapped on a trip to Paris, he jets after her and finds himself caught between the French police and a human-trafficking ring.

He 'fixes' things.

Comments: There's a surprising amount of scene-setting in Taken. Getting on for half the film is filled with laying out the premise and establishing Mills' backstory and his relationships with his daughter and ex-wife. Thanks to Neeson's charisma, these elements are watchable enough but you can't help thinking it's all rather excessive for such a clich├ęd scenario.

Things only really get going once the dramatic (but somewhat unlikely) kidnapping occurs. Once he's in France, Mills utilises all his cunning and training to hunt down those responsible. There are some clever moments but events become rapidly unbelievable as the action ramps up. What starts as a tense investigation turns into manic car chases, ruthless brawls and the kind of gun battles where one determined dad with a pistol takes out a horde of bad guys dual-wielding Uzis. Unfortunately, the gung-ho action doesn't sit entirely comfortably with the sordid setting. Some of the scenes of human exploitation are quite depressing - turning the situation into Die Hard is unsettling for the wrong reasons.

Ultimately, Taken is rather unbalanced. It feels like the first and last episodes of 24: Season 1 slammed together with some extra implausibility and a protagonist who's slightly too old to be throwing himself off bridges.

Oh, and remember, if your teenage kids don't appreciate and respect you even though you're a nice guy and working really hard to make them happy, nothing fixes things better than saving their lives by going and wreaking havoc in a European capital...

Conclusion: Like someone held the script the wrong way up so most of the common sense fell out and all the action settled to the bottom.

Explosions: More like a couple of small fires.
Body count: Exponential.
Profound insights into parent-teenager relationships: Not many.
Bad guys capable of hitting a stationary man using an automatic weapon in a confined space: None.
Portrayal of France: They should sue.

Rating: 3/5.


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