Sunday, July 5, 2009

Taken...for one hell of a ride!!

This has been a rough week of rentals for me; I decided to give Strange Wilderness a try because I watched Happy Gilmore on television and thought “maybe Sandler can produce a good one this time around” – he didn’t. The movie was absolutely terrible and I finished it only to see if the last 10minutes could be worse than the first … and they were. Amazing! – 0 reels out of 5. Then it was the ultra-heavy “if they made a sequel to 8mm this would be it” otherwise known as Trade starring Kevin Kline, which occasionally played out like a road trip/buddy comedy. That, along with some other issues of themes and character inconsistency, detracted from the overall impact of the film. – 2 reels out of 5. Man, after Trade all I wanted in my life was romantic comedies or spoofs. I couldn’t take another serious movie especially one dealing with selling young women into the sex trade.

But no, my buddy had to Gchat me two days later saying I needed to bump Taken to the top of my Netflix queue. I told him I absolutely did not want to watch the movie where a father threatens his daughter’s kidnappers and they respond with “good luck." That preview just made the movie seem corny and Hollywood-ish; it just put a bad taste in my mouth. Plus I thought it would be a fusion of Leon aka The Professional and the Bourne movies (which on paper is an awesome fusion, by the way) that would fall way short much like copies never retain the sharpness of their originals. Reluctantly I bumped Taken to the top of my queue. Taken arrived Wednesday. I put it in the DVD player at 8:15pm on Thursday. By 9:50pm I was calling my buddy apologizing for ripping his recommendation.

The movie is enjoyable. I was wrong about its plot, and for that I am ignorant for not doing more research. The movie centers on Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), an ex special forces or CIA operative, who must track down his seventeen year old daughter in France before she is sold into the sex trade. Ok, wicked heavy storyline right there because if it was a kidnapping/ransom deal you would think his past caught up with him and that’d be a different box of cracker jacks, but instead we’ve got to deal with this sex trade thing again and see all these creepy dudes forcing girls into heroin dependency etc. It’s real in that sense, and that makes it appalling but that much harder to turn away at the same time.

Taken definitely fell victim to some action pic clichés, but it also excelled in understanding its dark themes and allowing its hero to take advantage of them. There were the 50 bad guys' bullets to Neeson’s one fatal good guy bullet – that gets very annoying over the course of 90minutes. Why not just let him seek cover? Or make him fire 50 rounds as well? I don’t understand why villains have terrible vision and aim? Is there no sight test in the recruitment of assholes? And then the whole car chase thing where cars are side by side and bad guys fire fully automatic rounds at Neeson’s car and the bullets bounce off the window fringe and side mirrors – warning: painfully unrealistic sequences are closer than they appear.

But as I mentioned there is a flip side to the cliches and its a darkness of sorts. Because Neeson has entered the gruesome world of sex slave traders and the morally inferior, he is allowed the freedom to brutally hunt and torture/kill his victims, and we cheer him for it. He’s no vigilante and he’s not a bad guy with the good guy characteristics; he’s just getting his daughter back by any means necessary and we’ll support him for that. There is one awesome scene involving an innocent bystander that I won’t even spoil, but if/when you see this movie you’ll jump out of your chair and say, “Holly hell! That’s what he was talking about!” There is more to complain about in Taken, but by the end you just say “forget it” and you’re happy you rode the roller coaster even if some of the loops and twists looked better from afar. (I would love to discuss the negatives in greater detail free from spoilers, so email us and I'll explain my uncut, unedited feelings)

Rent Taken and enjoy it. It’s not a popcorn flick; you’ll definitely want your glass of Kentucky Gentlemen and Coke with you for this one (if you’re over 21, of course). Take the clichés and some of the scenes that make you want to roll your eyes with a grain of salt. And if you really like this after you watch it, go back and watch some of Luc Besson’s better movies – Leon aka The Professional and La Femme Nikita – so you understand why I was a little hard on this movie. -- 3 reels out of 5

clarity on my rating system:
0= don’t bother
1= I don’t recommend it, but good luck if you want to see it
2 = worth a shot if it sounds like your type of flick; not for everyone
3= rent; if movie is in theaters wait for rental and you should like it
4= see in theaters if you have the chance; rent and enjoy!
5=what are you still doing here? Go see it or rent today!

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