There's always room for a decent vigilante movie and this year 'Taken' steps up to the mark to do the honours.
The storyline here is unashamedly reminiscent of anything from the Die Hard series. Simply strip Bruce Willis out of the equation and leave it to Director Pierre Morel to inject an authentic European flavour. With Liam Neeson as the main man the whole thing then turns into an altogether more gritty type of encounter than John McClain could ever muster.
Neeson is a towering figure of a man who does have credible screen presence but even I was a little surprised to see him being chosen to play this role. It's not that he can't play the part, but more because he is not the most immediate or standout candidate that would spring to mind to play a gun ho vigilante. It's undoubtedly intriguing to see him take this one on.
Once a part of a well trained crack CIA outfit, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) has now chosen to leave that life behind him. He's retired fairly early in order to try to spend some quality time closer to his daughter. His wife has long since left him and re-married to a wealthy business man and Kim (Maggie Grace) his daughter has now just turned seventeen.
It's really a guilt trip of sorts as the story introduces Bryan Mills as a guy who's trying to make up for lost time. The breakdown of his marriage bothers him but not more so than him having missed out on most of his daughter's childhood.
The story is predictable enough, you've got an over protective father who's developed an acute sense of unconditional love. Kim having now turned seventeen wants to set off to Europe along with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy). No doubt he's finding it increasingly difficult to let go but after much persuasion from his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) he finally signs the legal papers to allow her go to Paris.
All of you action hungry fans need not worry as other than the opening 20 minutes there's precious little to bog you down with any of the further sentiment behind the story. Once everything has been outlined 'Taken' becomes a film that wastes little time getting into the fray of things. Whilst the pace is not out and out frenetic had it been called something like 'Relentless' instead, it would have been equally as apt.
It's not long before that his very worst fears are realised. No sooner have the two girls landed in Paris that they are targeted and abducted in a bizarre underworld scam. An Albanian sex trafficking cartel has taken roost in Paris and unsuspecting foreign teenage girls are their prey. Kim and her American friend fit the bill exactly as the type of girls that their high profile clients desire.
Little do the abductors know what they've let themselves in for when they take this teenage pair. You could say that the blue touch paper is well and truly lit and this one man army of a man, Bryan Mills, jets off across the Atlantic in supreme 'Deathwish' style. Suffice to say there's some serious pyrotechnics in store and you can imagine that the whole story is about to rapidly descend into an out to kill hunt. There's little or no remorse on offer and the perpetrators that cross his path are in for some serious bone crunching punishment.
"I will look for you....I will find you....and I will kill you"
I'm not particularly a fan of brainless action but it's fascinating to see how Bryan Mills disseminates the layers of baddies to get to the root of all the evil. The hand to hand fighting is akin to anything Jason Bourne would be capable of and Bryan's outward emotions towards his enemies are as detached as they come.
This is vigilantism in true black and white style; you're either a goodie or baddie here and there's absolutely no shades of grey. What you get here is an incessant onslaught of hard hitting action to feast upon from start to finish. There's plenty here to keep all you action aficionados glued to the set for the full length of the feature. The directness of this approach, in what is now a well trodden and familiar genre, literally feels like a breath of fresh air. I guess in some ways the singular dimensionality of the film actually lends it a peculiar measure of both strength and weakness. Somehow the whole thing succeeds because amidst it all it is really a cracker of a thriller.
I suppose there is little point in dwelling on the detail. All of the cracks in the storyline (of which there are many) are glossed over in delivery of the ultimate adrenalin rush. A brute force movie such as this is simply out to grab and take ahold of your attention and never let go. The bottom line is it never lets slip for a second and it's incredibly difficult not getting caught up in all of the action. Much of this is enhanced by the fact that the film is timed to perfection. The theatrical version's runtime is a very concise 91 minutes and the unrated version adds a further two minutes of graphic mayhem. I must also point out that the theatrical version is actually no slouch and there's no pussy footing about in either version.
There's little more to say about this film other than admitting I was actually taken a little by surprise. It pretty much came out of nowhere and on this evidence I can see Liam Neeson being recalled for a second instalment in short succession. In the meantime I would advise that you fill your boots with this first outing. 'Taken' gives you plenty of bang for your buck and is certainly worth a watch.