I've been keeping an eye on Pierre Morel ever since his directorial debut District B13, which was a fantastic action movie that starred parkour: the art of free running, jumping, and climbing. Despite the lightweight plot it was an electric piece of entertainment.
Morel is back with Taken, another movie that's high on action and light on plot, but this time it stars Liam Neeson. He's going to rip Paris apart with his bare hands (and maybe a few knives and guns), Steven Seagal-style, to get his kidnapped daughter back.
I kid you not, Taken is the best Steven Seagal movie that's ever been made, and he's not even in it. Maybe that was the biggest improvement. It may be shocking to hear that the French and Liam Neeson have out-Seagaled Seagal, but they have, and in a good way.
Neeson stars as Bryan, former CIA-type operative who has retired to patch up his relationship with his estranged daughter. It's proving more difficult than he imagined, because as soon as he gets a chance to spend time with her she's off to France for a trip that he's opposed to, for security reasons. He thinks Paris is dangerous.
Turns out he's right. His daughter and her friend are almost immediately kidnapped by Albanian slave traders. In no time at all Bryan is off to Paris to use his skills to track down her kidnappers and get her back. He'll use his former spy contacts in Paris, and he's not at all hesitant to beat, shoot, stab, or even torture anyone who gets in his way. His one-man justice spree may not go over well with his former allies, but Bryan doesn't worry about the little things. He's got some bones to break.
Flimsy though the plot it is (and most of Luc Besson's stories are flimsy, though they may be fun), the movie is a step above most films of this nature for a few reasons. The first is Liam Neeson, who doesn't just sleepwalk through the role. He's strikingly lean and angry for much of the movie. In addition to bringing good acting to an action hero part that typically doesn't get it, he does a far better job in the action itself than I would have expected. Who knew he could run around snapping arms and getting into surprisingly good knife fights?
The second is Morel's direction. Once the movie gets past the sappy beginning, the action is tight and there are some excellent sequences, the best of which is easily the finale. It's not on the same level as District B13 was, but Niam isn't a parkour expert or full-contact kung fu champion. It's still really good.
If you like action and revenge movies or if you’re intrigued by the idea of Liam Neeson doing his best to wreck Paris, I recommend that you check out Taken.