Saturday, April 25, 2009

Taken

The only time I've been disappointed by a Liam Neeson performance was in the dreadful '1st' episode of Star Wars in which he and Ewan McGregor slept-walked their way through what should have been mysterious, action-packed and superb. I'm willing to allow Neeson one error of judgement in his film career, however, because I suspect most of the blame for the problems with that episode of Star Wars has to be laid at the feet of the director.

Which leads into my saying that Neeson manages to invest even more than his usual depth into his role in the extremely violent Luc Besson movie, Taken, and avoids being dull for even a fraction of a second. Not that he gets many seconds to be dull in. He plays an ex-'Preventer' (which apparently means someone who 'stops bad things happening' - whatever that actually means) and when his utterly naive 17-year-old daughter is kidnapped in Paris before she's had a moment to do any Green shopping let alone ordinary shopping, he's on her trail so fast he doesn't have time to pack a spare pair of socks.

Of course, being the world-wise Preventer that he is, he did warn his ex-wife, and his daughter, that it was a big nasty world outside of the good old US of A, but they, being so full of their big plans pay absolutely no attention, and deserve almost everything that happens.

Once he's in Paris, the place piles up with dead and maimed bodies until the cost of employing bodyguards inflates exponentially. Neeson, playing Bryan Mills, is a one-man destroyer of bad guys - and the film gives him umpteen bad guys to destroy. He's not to be messed with. Even Bond wouldn't stand a chance against him.

It's all ridiculous, of course, and it's only the fact that Neeson plays his character with such integrity and emotional depth that you sit and watch the thing. Did I say 'ridiculous?' His gun never runs out of bullets; he dodges machine-gun fire with a flick of his head, he always knows who's on the other side of the door - unfortunately for the aforesaid bad guys; he can drive a car while spending most of the time looking in the rear-view mirror, and/or while driving the wrong way down a one-way motorway. And if he gets injured, well, he'll be all right in the next scene.

Stephanie Zacharek, on Salon.com, says: "Taken" is the latest hyperkinetic chicken to emerge from the semi-cracked egg that is Besson's brain, " and she's right. Besson co-wrote it, and produced it. He's an entertainer, first and foremost, but he's never logical, and he's often extraordinary, as the superb Bruce Willis movie, The Fifth Element, attests.

So don't expect a movie that requires debriefing afterwards; and be warned that there are an awful lot of fairly grim deaths (rather too many broken necks for my liking). On the plus side, it's a thriller that carries you along without missing a beat - and you can tell what's going on in the action sequences, which is more than can be said for Quantum of Solace.
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