30 January 2009

Taken

What Man on Fire did to promote tourism in Mexico City, Taken does for Paris (and Albanians I guess). This time with Liam Neeson at the helm and Luc Besson writing (which means they'll be heart-felt family themes throughout — oh look, there's one). Built on the premise that "they kidnapped the wrong girl" and "Liam Neeson is a badass," this film narrowly escapes blatantly copying the aforementioned Tony Scott drama.

While decent, there is nothing riveting about this film. Taken is poorly edited and the intro is far too long and tiresome for the tension to mount in the way the director wants. Instead of being surprised to find out the father of the kidnapped daughter is a bad-ass, we know this before she even goes to Paris… which means we know something is going to go wrong… which means we know everything that is going to happen afterwards.

This film should have opened the exact same way as the trailer: daughter on phone to father, daughter gets kidnapped, father offers a threat over the phone, audience says whatthe----??! Tension mounts. Important details told through pictures in birthday photo album (which was used semi-effectively in the film) and bad guys getting ass handed to them in surprising ways as Liam continues to surprise us with his expertise.

Instead, there are never any surprises. There are no mysteries to what is going to happen. And in fact, despite the obvious attempts to copy the fight scenes from the Bourne series, and the car chases from Ronin, the movie lacks any unique narrative. Uneven in its quality, some of the choreography is amazing and other time its look lackluster and forgettable.

Lastly, the attempt to make this film gritty fails about a dozen times. The film quality is high-end and glossy, which means the villainy needs to be really gruesome to be effectual… and it's not. I've seen Trade. Girls kidnapped and sold for their virginity is not a new concept. Getting them hopped-up on drugs and hooking them out isn't either. Hell. Hostel did this better than you guys, and it's a cheap horror flick. The grit of this film would have been compounded with smarter (not better) film techniques and an understanding the intelligence of the audience.

Pierre Morel seems unable to grasp either concept.

Taken is not abyssmal, but it's no Professional. Besson has been phoning in his films for a long time and now he's phoning in his scripts as well. You're better off watching Transporter and Transporter 3. Neither film ever pretends to be anything else than what it is. Taken wants to be smart, and sometimes is, but fails to be consistent, which is the biggest tragedy of any wannabe blockbuster.