Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

"Taken is exactly the picture you are expecting and there's not even a real villain to hate, just a bunch of forgettable, faceless eurothugs. Unforgiveable."

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a highly-skilled, former government agent who retired in order to try and make a go of things with his estranged teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). When she's kidnapped on holiday in Paris, Bryan has only a few days to get her back...

Taken is exactly the picture you're expecting. A relentlessly straightforward thriller (plot? There's no time for that!), which the action crowd will eat up and tell anyone who doesn't offer a glowing recommendation to "accept it for what it is" and "stop looking too deeply". Playing out like a middle-aged version of Bourne with more than a few hints of 24 (invicible spy Daddy torturing, growling and kicking-ass till he gets his little girl back), they'll love it. And then some.

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On the other hand, those who prefer their movies with even the faintest whiff of story or character will sigh their way through something that feels like it came from the 1990s. After half an hour of scene-setting that almost has a sign above it reading, 'Mandatory', French director Pierre Morel seems satisfied that he's got all the non-action stuff out the way and proceeds to go about his business.

And by business, this means break-neck violence and a high bodycount. Often, Bryan's 'investigation' - get one guy to talk, kill him even though he may have been lying and move on, repeat - feels rushed and as though the details have been stripped to avoid audience boredom. You can almost here the direction at times – "Quick, they're falling asleep, break someone's arm!".

Now, if the first paragraph made you gloss over in a sugary coma, then you'll be pleased to know the set-pieces are effectively choreographed and competent. Problem being, there's no substance to make any of the bone-crunching actually mean anything. To his credit, Liam Neeson is a light-years more entertaining than he's got any right to be and keeps Taken from being a straight-to-DVD-straight-to- bin effort. If there was an Oscar for delivering ultimatums, he'd surely bag a trophy.

As for Maggie Grace, she's both way too old (17? Try adding 10 years to that) and unlikable (like her character initially was in Lost) for the part to work. There was a potentially interesting angle Morel could've played (a former-agent regretful of how spydom has ruined his relationship with his daughter), but it's all but ignored. Hell, there's not even a real villain to hate, just a bunch of forgettable, faceless eurothugs. Unforgiveable.

Reviewed on: 18 Aug 2011
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A former spy gets back into action after his daughter is kidnapped by sex traffickers.
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Read more Taken reviews:

Val Kermode ***1/2

Director: Pierre Morel

Writer: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Xander Berkeley, Katie Cassidy, Olivier Rabourdin, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Holly Valance

Year: 2008

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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