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Thanks to Liam Neeson, Taken Works

  • Annabelle Robertson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jan 22, 2015
Thanks to Liam Neeson, <i>Taken</i> Works

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."

With echoes of Harrison Ford’s 1988 Frantic, where he searched for his wife through Parisian back alleys, Taken is a decent thriller.  It could have been more creative and more subtle, but it works, largely due to Neeson’s acting skills.  Its message?  Unless you have an ex-husband who can maul, murder and maim with action-hero acumen—and no scruples about doing so—you’d better watch your kids.  The world is a cold, cruel and place.

That this film, with its startling number of killings and torture scenes, would qualify for a PG-13 rating—while Slumdog Millionaire got an R—just proves that there is little logic at the Motion Picture Association of America.  So the kids might end up seeing it without your permission.  The good news, however, is that if your teen does, she probably won’t ask to travel without a chaperone.  So maybe that’s the strategy behind the rating.  Either way, few will be disappointed, and many will enjoy Taken.


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  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Characters drink and smoke throughout film, usually in social contexts.
  • Language/Profanity:  A moderate amount of profanities and obscenities, some strong.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Very strong sexual themes, including the sex traffic of young women that is prevalent in Europe, and the high price that virgins can fetch on the black market. Brief, partial nudity and sexual situations with minors and/or very young women, all in the context of prostitution.
  • Violence:  Very strong, including more than a dozen murders (seen partially offscreen and/or at a slight distance); one extended torture scene; car chases and ensuring crashes and several fights/shoot-outs.