Amazingly last weekend I was still just clogged, so with the weather cleared up and warm for a few days, we figured to go out to a movie, deciding to go see something which could be translated as "fun", rather than "serious". So I don't know if/when I'll get a chance to see Kate Winslet on the big screen in Revolutionary Road, and Mrs. Dr. Phil saw Slumdog Millionaire when I was off at ConFusion.
Celebration North #13 2:50pm
Let's be honest here. We're not going to see Taken because of any great writing or morals. No, we're going because Liam Neeson's daughter has been kidnapped and Liam's character is ex-something and so is going to go one-man superspy ballistic on the people who took his daughter. Serious Liam is Fun Liam. 'Kay?
The opening is slow, designed to establish that Liam is estranged from his wife and daughter, and desperately trying to reconnect with his daughter. As one reviewer pointed out, we know he is distraught, single and dedicated because of the universal cinema symbology: nearly empty apartment, leftover Chinese food containers lying around, one picture of his daughter in a frame, plus a photo album.
We establish he used to be in The Business working for the U.S. government. No one actually mentions his Irish accent, so we shouldn't worry about it either. We establish that he left The Firm on good terms, simply to reconnect with his daughter. His buddies from The Agency, they have a side security job, so we establish that Liam has mad security skills and is the competent man. Furthermore, he's in a bidding war with the new stepfather, a filthy rich guy, for the affections of his daughter. Of course.
But for someone used to using high tech espionage gear, he has a lousy grasp of consumer products. Cheap snapshot camera for the photo album, and a "top of the line" karaoke machine "just like the pros use" made by that quality brand GPX, featured in K-Mart and Target, et al.
The early trailers we saw just showed the kidnapping in Paris and Liam threaten the kidnappers, saying that he hasn't any money but he does have a special set of skills and he will find them. Okay, this sounds more lame when we find out how rich stepdaddy is, but it turns out that's not what the kidnapping is all about. At this point, it's not a spoiler that it's Eastern European sex slavers, targeting nice Western girls.
It's this part of the plot that is exceedingly grim. Yes, I know that this sort of thing actually exists, that plenty of bastards treat women as property or worse. And yes, they've portrayed some of the conditions in gritty fleeting glances which to me are far more nightmarish than anything I'd ever want to connect with sex. But given that I doubt that this plot was written as part of a social conscious movement, as entertainment I'd rather they were just kidnappers going for the money.
There is some good stuff here. One bad guy jumps off a highway ramp onto the roof of a truck then goes running off. Liam, older and larger, chooses not to follow the guy. This isn't James Bond or Jason Bourne, this guy is somewhat more human. Alas, even though he makes some mistakes, the Professional friends of his don't come back into the story in the nick of time to rescue him. No, he's going to have to get out of these things on his own. At least the one bad guy almost has a reason not to shoot Liam right then and there. He's afraid the noisy party above the dungeon might overhear a shot. Well, maybe not.
And then there are the holes in the plot:
Stop Reading Now...
... because the spoilers are pretty obvious for a movie like this. First of all, of course he gets his daughter back. And of course he gets her while she is still a virgin -- a point set up early in the movie, so I'm not reading anything into the ending. And of course the older girlfriend who screwed up and endangered his daughter is killed. This is necessary so that we know that the bad guys are serious and therefore Liam's daughter is in serious danger.
There are leftover ends all over the place. The girl he rescues for one. The corrupt French official for another. And incongruities. Why do father and daughter return to the States via ordinary commercial flight? Shouldn't she be traumatized? At least distraught about her friend getting killed? Isn't he worried that any leftovers related to all the people he's killed might be after him? I thought he was big on security. And why the hell didn't stepdaddy use his private plane to extract them from Paris?
But None Of That Matters
This is a father on a mission. It's personal. That his tactics are somewhat to the right of 24's Jack Bauer on a bad day, doesn't matter because Liam isn't working as our agent. In the end, it's just an action movie. And for all that, it's mostly good enough for a Saturday afternoon's entertainment.