Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Never leave home without him

Taken (2008)

Writer/producer Luc Besson loves him some unconventional action heroes. He's created Nikita, Leon, Corbin Dallas, Frank Martin and Danny the Dog in the movies La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element, the Transporter trilogy and Unleashed. (Whew. And on the seventh day, he rested.) Now Besson, with his frequent co-writer Robert Mark Kamen, has given us Bryan Mills in Taken.

Mills, played by Liam Neeson, is a retired government agent (he never reveals what agency); he tells his daughter, Kim, that he was a "preventer." Against his better judgment - and whose judgment is better than a former Jedi Master's, I ask you - he lets 17 year old Kim (Maggie Grace, formerly of Lost) jet off to Paris with her bff, Amanda.

If you think losing your passport or credit cards, or not being able to dine at that one restaurant that your old friend from college won't stop raving about makes for a bad trip, TRY BEING KIDNAPPED. Yup, Kimmy and Amanda are kidnapped in Paris and daddy. is. pissed.

This is basically the same plot as Commando, that 80's action gem where the Governator played Col. John Matrix (LOVE that name) whose daughter, that little Alyssa Milano chick from TV's Who's the Boss, grew up HOT and did that movie, Embrace of the Vampire that played on Skinemax forever.

But, true to form, Besson and Kamen have created a new action hero in Neeson's Bryan Mills. In other, lesser action movies the "retired" hero always looks like he's in mid-30s. Neeson is in his mid-50s, so his retirement from government "preventing" is entirely plausible. He's also old enough to have a kid who is almost eighteen. Casting Neeson is a stroke of genius. In every role he takes, he brings his intelligence, sense of duty and honor, and gravitas. And, taking a page from the John McClane handbook, he makes Mills vulnerable; he's not Superman, but he's very, very good at what he does. (Plus, you know, FORMER JEDI MASTER.)

Similar to the Bourne movies and Besson's Transporter series, there are car chases, fisticuffs and martial arts (croissant fu?) and shady underworld characters galore. Liam Neeson navigates through all of them like a great white shark on the prowl for its next target. I found Taken much more enjoyable than the meant-to-be cartoonish Transporter movies (though the former could have just a smidgen of a sense of humor).

I hear they are already planning Taken 2. I'll make sure my passport is up to date.

ps: It just occured to me that Luc Besson looks like a cross between Doobie Brother Michael McDonald and Sasquatch. What does that mean with regard to his filmic sense? What, indeed....

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