Fifteen years have handed since Hollywood abruptly rebranded Liam Neeson as a bonafide motion star in Pierre Morel’s revenge thriller Taken. On the time, Neeson was often called a prestigious actor who often ventured into style territory (such a Darkman, Star Wars, and Batman Begins) however had by no means carried his personal franchise. Not solely did Taken show Neeson may lay down the ache pretty much as good as the subsequent man, nevertheless it additionally repurposed him as a billable star, paving the way in which for a slew of motion movies and big-budget options over the subsequent decade.
Whereas the aura surrounding Neeson has cooled in recent times — his final huge hit was 2018’s The Commuter — Taken breathed new life into the Academy Award-nominated actor’s storied profession and allowed him to linger far longer than most within the public gaze.
As such, it’s solely becoming to have a good time Taken’s fifteenth Anniversary by highlighting our favourite moments from the flick. So, seize your service weapon, combine your self a cocktail, and luxuriate in this velocity run by means of probably the most shocking motion movies of the final 20 years.
For all its casting originality, Taken is pretty rudimentary in its plotting. The movie presents Neeson’s Bryan Mills as a well-to-do divorcee who dotes over his daughter, fights together with his ex-wife, and spends his night together with his outdated murderer buddies. These early scenes give us a peek inside Mills’ mind. We be taught that he’s cussed, a tad boastful, remorseful, and one helluva cook dinner. Once more, none of that is revolutionary storytelling, and fortunately, Neeson’s commanding presence provides the paint-by-number plot beats much-needed weight, which makes the following motion all of the extra satisfying. Additionally, Famke Janssen’s Lennie — excuse me, Lenore — is the worst.
Now, one may argue it makes little sense for a group of badass troopers to banter like a gaggle of drunken excessive schoolmates — you’d count on a extra inflexible veneer from these fellas — however these early scenes make Mills a likable sufficient common Joe, even when the next two acts current him as something however.
Live performance Sequence
Following the barbecue, Mills takes a gig defending a Britney Spears-like starlet throughout a live performance. Fortunately, his daughter enjoys this specific pop star, transferring the needle in a optimistic course for Mills — and certain pissing off Lenore to no finish. This sequence additionally lets us see the massive man in motion for the primary time. After a rowdy crowd breaks by means of a barrier, Mills escorts the singer out of hurt’s approach and finally ends up confronting a knife-wielding tremendous fan, who he dispatches reasonably rapidly. Taken hails from the outdated shaky-cam, quick-cutting faculty of motion. That’s not a knock, however in comparison with current motion footage — notably Mission: Unattainable and John Wick, movies that deploy longer takes and permit their stars to carry out a majority of their very own stunts — it’s humorous to return to a time when each movie mimicked The Bourne Ultimatum.
Intriguingly, Mills’ fast pondering earns him the singer’s respect, and she or he agrees to assist Kim (Maggie Grace) together with her budding singing profession. Naturally, Kim doesn’t give a s— and solely needs her dad to signal a permission slip so she will be able to go to Paris, France, together with her buddy. He objects as a result of, nicely, he’s an overprotective dad who has seen sufficient evil on the earth to suppose going to France alone ranks extremely on the no f—ing approach chart. Once more, to Neeson’s credit score, audiences are nonetheless invested at this level, significantly when Kim flees the desk like one of many Tanner ladies from Full Home.
Ultimately, he relents. “Wouldn’t it have been simpler should you simply signed the papers,” Lenore asks. “Wouldn’t it have been simpler should you and I talked first,” he fires again. Burn.
Naturally, Kim will get in hassle on Day 1 when she and her buddy bump right into a seemingly kind-hearted Frenchman. Thoughts you, we’re solely 20 minutes into this movie, and that’s completely high quality. For all its flaws, Taken is aware of precisely what sort of a film it’s and by no means tries to overstep its boundaries. The group behind the digital camera is aware of what audiences wish to see and will get us to the good things as rapidly as doable. At a swift 90 minutes, Taken is roughly 10 minutes longer than the unique Toy Story. I’m good with that.
Anyhow, dangerous guys present up and seize Kim’s buddy, resulting in this now-iconic scene:
Taken’s advertising and marketing was designed round this monologue — a lot in order that I may nearly recite Mills’ speech verbatim after I noticed the movie on opening weekend. That is famous person stuff right here, people. Neeson’s supply sells the second. You consider each phrase he’s saying and nearly really feel dangerous for the individuals on the opposite finish of the telephone. Here’s a case of a prestigious actor elevating materials to such a level as to rework it into one thing akin to artwork. It’s stunning to look at, in all probability the only greatest second of your entire movie, and amongst probably the most memorable motion beats of the final 15 years.
(To Mills’ credit score, he by no means as soon as tells Lenore, “I advised you so.” I wouldn’t be almost as type.)
Mills Scopes Out the House
Like Batman, Mills has a specific set of expertise that permits him to piece collectively crime scenes. I like motion pictures the place the hero wanders by means of rooms gathering clues. Right here, Mills stumbles upon cloth caught in a mirror and pulls a picture of the mysterious Frenchman off a discarded flash drive — he sees the child’s reflection in an indication. One way or the other, he tracks the boy down, resulting in this insane freeway chase that, uh, ends reasonably sadly for the lad.
Nonetheless, the 6’4″ Neeson handles the motion nicely, making for a plausible, if unconventional, motion hero.
Building Web site
Because it seems, Kim and her pal are rapidly thrust into the world of intercourse trafficking. Neeson bugs a pimp, bribes a number of different individuals, and stumbles upon a building web site loaded with drugged-out girls and eager-to-pay males. He kicks extra ass, reveals off his knack with weapons, after which proceeds to kill a gaggle of baddies with an outdated beat-up automobile. Like Sound of Freedom, the darkish topic makes investing in Mills’ actions straightforward. Who doesn’t wish to watch a bunch of seedy intercourse traffickers get the residing s— kicked out of them? Is it compelled manipulation? Certain, however Taken wouldn’t be almost as compelling if our hero have been going after, say, a few common kidnappers in search of cash.
Following a prolonged investigation, Mills discovers extra goons inside an condo advanced. He lays down a BS story, listening intently to their voices. Keep in mind, he has a recording of the kidnapper’s voice. Ever so slyly, he asks a person named Marko (Arben Bajraktaraj) to translate a message. “Good luck,” he says with a smirk. A flurry of flashbacks connects the dots—that is the dude who took Kim.
“I advised you I might discover you,” Mills says earlier than annihilating everybody within the room—the form of second you’d’ve seen in an outdated Steven Seagal flick. And simply to make sure you proceed rooting for Mills, even throughout a violent torture sequence, the movie has him encounter Kim’s buddy mendacity in a mattress, lifeless from a drug overdose. Get ’em Mills!
Mills’ investigation leads him to his buddy, Jean-Claude Petrel (Olivier Rabourdin), who has been taking cash from the Albanian Mafia. This results in a clumsy dinner scene the place Jean’s spouse—who has no thought about her husband’s dangerous deeds—hilariously tries to carry a gentle dialog together with her visitor. Learn the room, girl!
Surprisingly, Jean tries to shoot Mills however is just too distracted to note his gun doesn’t have any bullets. “That’s what occurs while you sit behind a desk,” Mills snaps earlier than taking pictures Jean’s spouse within the arm. Are his techniques unorthodox? Certain, however intercourse traffickers, keep in mind?
Darkish Public sale
Within the movie’s creepiest scene, Mills intrudes upon an public sale the place girls are bid on by billionaires sitting in darkish rooms—shades of Epstein Island. Fortunately, Kim is the principle prize. Sadly, the dangerous guys get the drop on Mills, tie him up, and put together to execute him. Not so quick! Mills simply breaks free and proceeds to slaughter everybody in sight.
The most effective points of Taken is that Mills is rarely overwhelmed. He sustains a number of gentle accidents however stays an unlimited step forward of everybody. He mercilessly executes the wealthy bastard in command of the lavash affair and makes his approach onto a ship, resulting in …
Up till this level, Taken has fastidiously toed the road between grounded detective thriller and outlandish motion characteristic. You don’t actually consider something that’s occurring onscreen, however the varied fights and chase sequences have been believable sufficient to simply accept to a sure diploma.
The massive finale says, “F— it,” and lets unfastened with the wild shenanigans. Mills takes down a boatload of troopers by leaping by means of home windows, shrugging off gunshots, and diving behind seemingly bulletproof couches. Ultimately, he finds Kim being held at gunpoint by a nasty-looking villain and simply dispatches him in mid-sentence.
Taken doesn’t do something different movies have finished higher, however rattling is it plenty of enjoyable. That could be bizarre to say a couple of movie that includes intercourse trafficking. But, Neeson is so plausible as Mills, a near-invulnerable killer whose judo chops are highly effective sufficient to take down grown males, that it’s straightforward to miss the predictable story beats and simply benefit from the trip. Taken epitomizes the quintessential B-movie expertise—a charming slice of leisure crafted across the cherished daydream of each father: moving into the function of their little one’s final hero.
Additionally, Lenore sucks.