If his movies are anything to go by, the name of French filmmaker "Luc Besson" must translate into English as "Sucks Ass By The Metric Ton". This is something that started all the way back in 1990 with Nikita, the movie the presented the idea that intelligence agencies would actively recruit violent criminals, force them to do delicate, high risk missions and then act surprised when they screw the whole thing up. We move on to The Fifth Element in which Earth's fate is placed in the hands of Bruce Willis and a 102 pound alien girl with clown hair played by Milla Jojovich. From there we skip on to Besson's magnum opus, The Messenger, in which the same girl is cast as France's greatest hero, a role for which she was eminently qualified because she was screwing Luc Besson. One day when the lights were actually on in their house and she got a good look at Luc Besson, she ran screaming and that left him with nothing to do except make the same cheesy action movie three times. Which brings us to today.
I was expecting very little from Taken. It has the same cheap, straight-to-DVD look that most Eurotrash action films have but it did have Liam Neeson's very compelling monologue in the trailer in which he informs his daughter's kidnappers that he has the skills to find and kill them if they don't let her go. It turns out that Liam wasn't kidding. It also turns out that Besson wrote and produced a fairly decent movie. At least for this movie, the part of Luc Besson that is a retard is gone (I'm so glad I was able to have that title make at least a little sense since there was no way I wasn't going to use it).
Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a CIA agent who retired to spend more time with his teenage daughter, Kim (former Lost star Maggie Grace). This turned out to be a waste of time since his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) married a rich man and has lots of spare time on her hands, time she spends being as much of a cold bitch to Bryan as she possibly can and limiting his access to Kim. This comes to a head when she pressures Bryan into giving 17 year old Kim permission to take a trip to Paris without adult supervision. Against his better judgment, Bryan gives in and Kim and her schoolmate Amanda fly off to the City of Lights. Now, I don't know what Bryan thought was going to happen to his daughter in Paris but I'm guessing it was along the lines of being mugged or choking on a baguette. I think if being kidnapped by Albanian sex slave traders was even in the top ten of his Things That Could Go Horribly Wrong List, he wouldn't have let Kim go. I have no idea if that actually happens but I do know how the American media can go crazy when sexy girls go missing and if this was happening in Paris at the rate of at least one per day, as the movie suggests, I think we'd have heard about it. Still, this is a Luc Besson film so this is about as close to gritty realism as you're ever going to get so let's just move on.
Luckily, Kim is on the phone with Bryan when it happens and she's able to give him small though vital clues. In another lucky break, it turns out that Bryan is smarter than everyone in Paris. It also turns out that the only members of French law enforcement who aren't incompetent are corrupt and actively participating in the whole sex slave thing so they're no help, not that Bryan needs it. I noticed at the beginning that he had no weapons with him when he arrived in Paris but it turned out that he didn't need them as various types of knives and firearms pretty much just fall into his lap at just the right time. Also, Paris seems to consist of two, maybe three streets since he has no trouble getting around and more or less trips over anyone he needs to find. Still, as I said, this is gritty realism in the world created by the same guy who, in Transporter 2, had a guy flip a car upside down in midair so a giant magnet could pluck a bomb off the bottom.
Taken is good because once the action starts, it doesn't stop. Taken also has a great performance from Liam Neeson, an actor so good that he's able to shout, "WHERE'S MY DAUGHTER?" dozens of times and still have it sound fresh. And last but not least...no, screw that, he's least, we have Luc Besson, a filmmaker whose greatest talent has always been to create interesting characters and put them into stupid situations where they come off as total idiots. He seems to have lost that talent for the moment. Let's hope it stays that way.