Judge David Johnson's daughter isn't ever going to Paris. At least not without a tactical nuke.
Our review of Taken: 2-Disc Extended Cut, published May 12th, 2009, is also available.
"I will find you. I will kill you."
The surprise action experience of the year finally hits the U.S. home video market after spending the last like twenty years kicking ass in Europe.
Facts of the Case
There's a lonely guy named Brian (Liam Neeson, Batman Begins), who lives a life of solitude in Los Angeles, pining away for the affections of his daughter and killing time every so often cooking steaks with his former CIA pals. When his daughter (Maggie Grace, Lost) tells him she's going to Europe, he is immediately concerned—he knows the kind of hooligans that populate that continent and he doesn't believe his daughter is mature enough to stay out of danger.
Regardless, she takes off anyway and wouldn't you know it, she's kidnapped by Albanian sex traffickers and it's on. Brian springs into action. Employing his "unique skill set" of counterterrorism tactics and quadricep-stabbing, he travels to Paris and proceeds to burn the place to the ground.
Hatched in the minds of omnipresent filmmaker Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel (who was responsible for the fun-filled District B13), Taken is about as simple as concept for an action movie you can find: dad loves daughter, daughter is snatched by some lowlifes, dad flies to Europe and engages in wanton slaughter. But for what it might lack in nuanced, complex plotting, Taken more than compensates with a delirious pace that doesn't let up, some expertly staged action set-pieces and an iconic bad-ass performance by Neeson.
Wow, is Neeson terrific here. At first glance he may not seem like the action type, but the glimpses we got of his agility in Batman Begins combined with the intensity he brings to everything he does and bolstered with one of the most imposing leading man physical statures of all time adds up to a revelation: the man is a dominant force of nature. When Brian is unleashed, there are no limits. His actions are brutal and shocking, but when viewed in the context of what drives him—as well as the awfulness of his opponents—I submit that you, like me, will be wholeheartedly pulling for him to take care of his business. Seriously, what can be a greater motivator for violence than tracking down the sickos that took your daughter and sold her into sex slavery?!
I'll keep the rest of my reaction a minimum because, frankly, the film's story is so lean I could conceivably blow through the whole plot in a few more paragraphs. But I did want to give one spoilerish shout-out (skip to the next paragraph to go in clean): thank you writers for not employing the most tired of action clichés and having Brian's CIA pals or even his ex-wife's husband be behind all this. I was waiting for that shoe to drop all the way until the end, and was so relieved that the bad guys here were just that—bad guys, total douchebags engaged in appalling evil that deserved every bit of violence that was served to him. Taken was refreshingly stripped clean of nuance and gray area.
Anyway, awesome movie and far more brutal than its PG-13 rating would make you think (the unrated extended cut isn't much more violent, but I did notice some extended moments in a few actions scenes). On Blu-ray, the film certainly looks tight, and represented a decent upgrade over the standard-def effort, but it's lacking the eye-popping high-def sheen found in top-shelf releases. A lot of that has to do with the stylistic choices of the director: this is a dark, washed-out color palette, reflecting the harshness of the world Brian is tearing down, as well as the shifty decisions he must make to achieve his goal. Once in a while you'll get a scene that takes better advantage of the enhanced resolution (flyovers of Paris, the throwdown in the boat, the rock concert in the beginning). Overall, it's a nice transfer and still worth taking over the DVD. The 5.1 DTS-HD audio delivers an engrossing, enveloping sound experience that plays a critical role in pushing the tension even further.
The highlight of the extras is the "Black Ops Field Manual," which tracks the number of people Brian kills or injures in real time, as well as ticking off the hours until his daughter is gone for good. In addition, during severe attacks, a pop-up window opens up and breaks down the injury in further detail. Pointless, sure, but the kind of fun high-def bonus I like to see. More traditional bonuses include: two commentaries from co-writer Robert Mark Kamen and Pierre Morel, cinematographer Michael Abramowicz and stunt supervisor Michel Julienne (French with English subtitles), a making-of featurette, side-by-side comparisons of the action scenes and a feature on the film's premiere. Disc Two is the Digital Copy, which I might actually use for the first time ever.
This is my kind of movie: relentless, violent, engaging, and uncompromising. Neeson is a bona fide action stud. The Blu-ray's solid.
Not guilty. Father knows best.
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