For anyone sick and tired of superheroes, silly stunts and a CGI-overdose, but still likes their movie diet with dollops of ass-kicking and unreality, I would definitely recommend action thriller Taken.

Taken starts off relatively slowly, with nice guy Bryan (Liam Neeson) trying to reconnect with his 17 year old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). This is despite the best efforts of Lenore (Famke Janssen) Bryan's rich bitch of an ex-wife, to keep the father-daughter pair apart. It's at Lenore's insistence that Bryan stop smothering Kim that he eventually signs a consent form allowing his daughter to travel unsupervised to Paris with her best friend.

All of this takes quite a while to be conveyed onscreen, but fortunately just as the audience starts muttering "get on with it," Kim is kidnapped and Neeson gets to explode in an uncharacteristic frenzy of brutality. Taken's slow start does in fact give a powerful emphasis to the action when it does eventually kick into gear.

In the vein of The Bourne Identity, Taken is a traditional action thriller. It's not about "oooh" inducing stunts or overly complex camera angles. It's taunt, gritty and realistic. Taken manages to be wince-inducing violent without being bloody and sensationalist. Bodies pile up but you barely realise it.

Neeson does a fantastic job in the film as a man who will do anything to get his daughter back before she's lost forever. A former CIA "preventer" Bryan has the skills to get the job done, and his cool professionalism masks his obvious desperation, which does occasionally peek through his calm veneer.

Neeson is highly convincing as Bryan, largely because the audience doesn't have many expectations of him as an action hero (in comparison to say, Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson). This lack of preconceptions gives Neeson the freedom to play Bryan as a surprisingly dark character - he will kill anyone who gets in his way; at one point even shooting the mother of 2 young children who has just prepared a meal for him.

As much as Taken is thrilling entertainment, towards the end of the film you start to realise the artificiality of what you're seeing. Despite presenting the very real problem of sexual trafficking in disturbingly graphic detail, the filmmakers of Taken (La Femme Nikita and The Transporter's Luc Besson wrote the screenplay) can't resist presenting the audience with Hollywood's current favourite villains - sleazy Albanians and bloated Arab sheiks.

And apart from Neeson, the performances in Taken aren't especially convincing. Janssen seems over-the-top during her limited screen time and Grace certainly doesn't look like a virginal 17 year old. Her performance in the final few scenes also doesn't ring true given the ordeal her character has been through.

So yes, Taken has its flaws, and ends a bit lamely, but on the whole it's a gripping popcorn flick, and I'd take it any day over tripe like Wanted.


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