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What to See – Taken

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Taken stars Liam Neeson as an ex-spy who’s moved to L.A. to be closer to his daughter (Maggie Grace), only to spring into action when she’s abducted by Albanian sex-slavers in Paris. I don’t know whether your reaction to this is I don’t want to hear about it or Tell me more, but it’s my pleasure to report that Taken will reward the interest of any action fan.

The movie is the follow-up to Pierre Morel’s District B13 . While the previous effort had plenty of high-flying, low-plausibility tricks and treats, it’s refreshing to see Morel rein in his over-the-top instincts and deliver a ground-level, gritty action flick. For all the kick-to-the-knee, karate-chop-to-the-throat brute force the film offers, it also has a solid emotional core, with Neeson beating, bludgeoning, and bluffing his way through Paris as an act of contrition to his daughter and ex-wife (Famke Janssen). Think The Bourne Paternity.

The other pleasure of Taken is seeing Neeson bring the noise as an action hero. In Batman Begins , Rob Roy , and Darkman , he’s a true physical presence. Here, his age makes the action all the more plausible, ironically — you know he’s a survivor by sheer virtue of the fact that he’s survived.

Written by Robert Mark Kamen and Luc Besson, Taken keeps things down-to-earth: Neeson’s gear is more Sharper Image than Q Division. He works the case with bulldog instincts, and while his character thinks hard before he fights, he fights hard when he has to.

Kamen and Besson previously gave us the Transporter films, with their cool cars, kung-fu fighting, and exploding jewelry. Taken is more exciting by virtue of being less “exciting.” In an age of wacky movie inventions, there’s something reassuringly old-timey about the simple pleasures of a father’s wrath, a kick to the knee, and a chop to the throat.

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