...why Liam Neeson spent time and energy to be in Taken, the very silly action-drama I saw at Govinda's Indian restaurant & movie house last week. I'm guessing he had some serious gambling debts to pay off. In my last post, I discussed Neeson's Schindler's List costar Ralph Fiennes, who is as excellent an actor today as he was fifteen years ago. Neeson is too, of course, but I guess Taken is his Maid in Manhattan - enjoyable on some very broad levels, but altogether impossible to discern a raison d'être for. So, for those keeping score at home, Liam Neeson : Taken :: Ralph Fiennes : Maid in Manhattan. I love using SAT question format when inappropriate.
At dinner before going into the theater, someone who had heard of the movie (because I certainly hadn't) said "This is the kind of movie that Steven Segal should star in." As a film studies major (code: snob), I figured this guy had no idea what he was talking about, because only in an alternate universe would a role made for Steven Segal go to Liam Neeson. Well, hop on board the S.S. Heart of Gold with me, because this seems to have happened.†
Taken is the story of an ex- C.I.A. agent Bryan who has chosen to retire so that he can finally spend time with his 17 year old daughter Kim (the gorgeous Maggie Grace), who lives with her MILF Lenore (Famke Janssen) and wealthy stepfather. Then, Lenore finally breaks through the mental shield placed on her by Professor Charles Xavier when she was a child, and the newfound power to control matter overcomes her, transforming her from a beautiful and talented woman to a destructive being controlled by her mutation. Oh wait, I'm thinking of the wrong movie.
Basically, Kim and her friend Amanda go to Europe for the summer, telling Bryan that they will be in Paris going to museums and learning French. He lets her go on the condition that she call and check in frequently. Of course their real, devious, reason for the trip is to follow teen sensation U2 on their European tour. PLEASE. What two teenage girls are inspi(red) to buck their parents' authority and follow a rock band around that isn't even popular with their generation? They should be groupies for Fall Out Boy, or whoever the kids listen to nowadays.
OF COURSE, the moment they get to Paris they break every rule of common sense and tell the attractive stranger man exactly where they live, showing them how hot, rich, unaccompanied, and stupid they are. I mean, I know that people do this all the time, and I have cops for parents, but please. You'd have to be incredibly stupid to make all the mistakes that Kim and Amanda do within 30 seconds of leaving the CDG airport. Within minutes, they're kidnapped by Albanian sex traffickers, but a chance phone call from Kim to Bryan clues him in on the situation, and he's off to Paris to find her.
At this point it just gets silly. Having only heard one of the Albanians say "good luck" over the phone, Bryan and his C.I.A. contacts discover exactly who it was. The violence is slapstick, the portrayal of the sex trade smacks of Eyes Wide Shut, and the bizarre and unnecessary portrayal of a Christina Aguilera -type starlet reminded me of cinematic gem Music & Lyrics. Bryan's french connection (heh) is clearly going to betray him from the moment he's onscreen, and some of the writing is just laughable. To top it all off, Neeson's American accent is really unconvincing, which was just a letdown. It was kind of funny to watch because of how over-the-top it is (complete with cars flipping and then fireballs coming out of nowhere à la Fear Factor), but kind of disappointing because illegal sex trafficking is a real thing that a fantastic Liam Neeson movie could have been made about, inspiring people to take action against it.
No need to see this career misstep. It might make for a good drinking game, but even then there are better options.
†I realize that this has been a hastily written post, and nerdier than usual. Douglas Adams and X-Men references? I am awesome. Get used to it.