Taken (2008)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Taken</strong> (2008)

(In theaters, February 2009) In the small universe of exploitation thrillers, there are few surer recipes than the old kidnapping plot. This one complicates the formula a bit by putting an A-list dramatic actor such as Liam Neeson in the protagonist’s role and making him an ex-CIA operative with serious skills. The rest is pure crunchy B-movie fun, with little deviation from the expected conclusion. It may not be deep, but it’s competent to such a point that it’s hard to believe that the same screenwriters responsible for this script also wrote the flaccid Transporter 3. Still, co-writer Luc Besson’s heavy touch may be lighter here, but it’s hardly unrecognizable: the French police forces are just as reliably corrupt as in his usual films, and he can’t resist goosing the premise with an over-the-top white-slaving excuse. The direction is unequal (the hand-to-hand combat is good, for instance, but the car chases are incoherent), but the whole film generally holds up better than most B-grade thrillers seen lately. Neeson gives the film some unexpected gravitas that goes much to make it look respectable. Hardly memorable, but generally irreproachable.

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