Though it was only 41 percent fresh among "top critics" on Rotten Tomatoes, I had heard some people praise this movie about Liam Neeson tracking down the people who abduct his teenage daughter and giving them the business, so when I saw it on HBO one night I decided to check it out.
The plot: Neeson is a divorced father and former CIA badass and whose daughter goes on a trip to Paris with her slightly older friend despite Neeson's reservations. They're kidnapped and sold into a prostitution ring, and Neeson flies over there and starts cracking skulls.
Here's the first problem with this movie: It takes a full 25 minutes for the action to start. In a movie that's only 93 minutes long, that's a concern. There are not four, not five, not six, but seven establishing scenes before Neeson's daughter is in Paris, her safety in jeopardy. Much of this time is spent showing that Neeson is way overprotective and feels a bit estranged from his daughter, but it doesn't add any emotional depth to the proceedings. Is the director trying to underline the "I told you so" factor? Because after all the vast majority of teenagers who take trips to France wind up in prostitution rings.
Once the action starts, "Taken" is a straight-ahead tracking-down-the-doomed-perps vengeance flick. We get our gunplay (including the grab-the-gun-of-someone-you're-grappling-with-while-it's-still-in-his-hand-and-shoot-another-bad-guy move, which can't be that easy in real life). We get our extended fisticuffs scene. We get our torture scene. We get our car chase scene. New rule: I may have said this before somewhere, but unless you have a revolutionary idea for filming car chases, please keep them to a minimum. I've reached my saturation point with shots of speeding cars spliced together almost at random to create the illusion of something exciting happening.
The dialogue on the whole isn't terrible, but "Taken" does contain one of the worst lines I've ever heard in a movie. It occurs after Neeson's daughter, played by Maggie Grace, and her friend have arrived at their posh flat in Paris, having shared a cab with a young, good-looking and apparently wealthy French guy. With zero prompting, the friend declares, "I'm going to sleep with him," leading to this exchange:
Maggie Grace: Who? Friend: Peter. Maggie Grace: You just met him. Friend: (with a concupiscent smile) I hear rich guys are amazing in bed.
I've heard some dumb things in movies before*, but this is up there. Why exactly are rich guys amazing in bed? Is it because they're freed from the daily struggle for survival and able to spend their leisure time practicing the art of lovemaking? And doesn't this contradict the Hollywood cliche that the young, hungry guys from the wrong side of the tracks are more passionate than their effete prep-school counterparts?
The friend's loose morals now established, clearing the way for her eventual death, she jumps up and, for no apparent reason, blasts a stereo and starts dancing on the sofa. For creating this scene, director Pierre Morel is flagged for life. I'm going to steer clear.
*From "Avatar" -- "If they get to the Tree of Souls, it's over! That's their direct line to Eywa, their ancestors. It'll destroy 'em!"
UPDATE: No!! I'm an idiot. Astute reader Blake led me to rewatch the scene above and she does indeed say "French guys are amazing in bed," not "rich guys." In my defense, she kind of whispers it, so the "Fre" part was hard to hear.
So that is no longer one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. It's merely kinda stupid. Pierre Morel is still on the hook for that "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" moment though. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to Google "premature hearing loss."