DVD Release Date:  May 12, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  January 30, 2009
Rating:  PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language)
Genre:  Thriller
Run Time:  91 min.
Director:  Pierre Morrel
Actors:  Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Xander Berkeley

Tired of seeing Liam Neeson as an aging mentor who dies in the first 30 minutes of a film?  Then step right up and pay yer money, folks.  Here, Neeson is transformed into a gun-toting, knife-wielding vengeance machine who will stop at nothing to get his daughter back.

Bryan Mills (Neeson) is a retired CIA operative who can’t connect with his teenage girl, Kim (Maggie Grace, of TV’s Lost).  Kim has moved in with her mother, Lenore (Famke Janssen) and Lenore’s absurdly wealthy new husband, and she seems worlds away from Bryan’s life in his dingy little apartment.  Bryan tries hard, but he just doesn’t get it.  For Kim’s 17-year-old birthday, he brings her a karaoke machine.  But even that is usurped by the stepfather, who gives Kim a horse—in front of all the party guests, who are enjoying champagne on his palatial estate.  Meanwhile, Lenore just smirks.

Depressed and despondent, Bryan goes home and flips through photo albums of his former life.  Some former military buddies show up with beer and convince him to join them on security detail for a pop star.  After the singer is attacked, Bryan gets to show off his action skills.

When Lenore and Kim request his permission for Kim to spend a few weeks in France, unchaperoned, Bryan shakes his head.  He knows “how the world really works,” and he’s not going to allow his daughter to take that kind of risk.  But a few nasty comments from Lenore and a temper tantrum from Kim persuade this dutiful dad to relent.  He does, only to discover at the airport that Kim is actually going to be following U2 around Europe all summer—with Lenore’s blessing.  Against his better judgment, Bryan allows her to board the plane.

Less than 12 hours later, he’s on the phone with her as she witnesses her friend’s kidnapping.  He has a few precious minutes to give her instructions before she, too, is taken.  Because she left her cell phone on during the attack—and because her attacker actually picks it up and speaks—Bryan gets to run the tape through voice-recognition technology, which identifies him as an Albanian sex trafficker.  According to his friend’s information, Bryan has 96 hours to find his daughter or she’ll disappear forever.

Aside from a really slow first 20 minutes, viewers will have to put up with some problematic credibility issues—like being able to identify the name, hometown and standard operating procedure of an international criminal, based on two words of speech; the extraordinary athleticism of a 50-something dad, whose abs and pecs we never even see; 17-year-old U2 fans in the year 2009; and the likelihood of a pop singer giving voice lessons (plus an agent introduction) to a young girl she’s never heard sing, to name just a few.  French mega-producer Luc Besson, who wrote the film, also kept the dialogue pretty lame.  But fortunately, Neeson gets one really good monologue, and it makes the film take off like the Batmobile:

"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you ... and I will kill you."