Since it was released I’ve been told by friends that I Really Must Watch Taken, and that I’d Really Like It. They all talk about how they expected it to be rubbish and were surprised by how good it was, that Liam Neeson is excellent, and that generally it’s better than you might think from the trailers and premise.
The reasons why I didn’t like TAKEN can be split into two categories. Spoilers…
Action Movie Reasons
- The action is largely uninspired, from both a choreography and cinematography/editing perspective. It mostly involves Neeson waving his hands around quickly and regularly jumping through windows for no apparent reason.
- There’s a really lame car chase at a quarry in which all the cars look exactly the same.
- It suffers from classic Death Amnesia Syndrome. This is whereby a supporting but apparently important character dies a horrible death, there’s a brief but heartfelt 30 seconds of mourning, and then everybody completely forgets about them. In TAKEN, the character Amanda dies from a drug overdose having been kidnapped and possibly raped. Neeson looks sad. But at the end of the film, having rescued his own daughter, Amanda is not mentioned or mourned whatsoever. Daughter is far more excited about her new singing lessons!
- For an apparently highly trained mofo, all Neeson seems to actually do is beat people up. He does a tiny bit of investigation, most of which is a bit too convenient, but generally all his skills seem to involve waving his hands around and jumping through windows for no apparent reason. There’s no intelligence or planning or cunning. Which makes him (and the film) a bit dull.
- There’s a key moment right at the end in which the film had a chance to be AWESOME. It’s after the daughter is rescued, and the camera is pulling back, framing Neeson and her in a doorway. She says “you came for me…” to which he responds “I said I would.” BAM – END CREDITS! Except that isn’t what happens. Instead it cuts to a tedious airport scene with them arriving back home and being reunited with other family members, then cuts to ANOTHER tedious scene of daughter excitedly arriving at Holly Valance’s (???) house for singing lessons. Awful, awful ending. A sudden cut to black after those two lines would have been an iconic, efficient, memorable and hard hitting ending, cementing the film as a nasty, tight, brilliant exploitation flick. The two superfluous and sentimental scenes on the end cement the film as being arse.
- The film is oppressively xenophobic. I mean that in the dictionary definition of the word: “unreasonably fearful of or hating anyone or anything foreign or strange.” Everything is fine and dandy until Neeson’s daughter leaves the cosy safety of America, to super dangerous Paris (!), where she’s kidnapped by Albanians and sold via a white slave market to evil sheikhs. Every non-American (with the exception of a friendly and understandably bemused Albanian translator) is a murderer, kidnapper, prostitute, rapist, dealer, pimp, pervert or corrupt official. I kid you not. The entire film is a cynical exercise in preying on the audience’s fear and paranoia of the world beyond their front door. The message is clear: stay at home, don’t stray.
- As such, if you’re not the sort of person filled with fear and loathing of the outside world and people who aren’t the same as you, the film falls flat on its face. It has literally nowhere left to go. Intriguingly, the film is produced and co-written by Luc Besson, a Frenchman. I wonder whether he tailored the film specifically to appeal to the insular concerns of some Americans, or whether he designed the film to appeal to scared people of all nationalities? Well, except for Albanians – though they’ll certainly come away from the film rather concerned that the entire world thinks they’re uniformly bastards.
- To be precise, I’m not complaining about Neeson’s character having the above viewpoints. I’ve watched and loved many films with central characters that espouse extremely dubious views on the world. The problem is that the film is entirely in agreement with the character.
- Talking of which, the film also thinks that torture is super cool. Oh, and murder by torture. At one point Neeson is torturing with electricity an Evil Albanian who he knows has kidnapped his daughter. The torture works and he gets the information he needs, so he leaves the guy to be electrocuted to death. An act of revenge for what the kidnapper did to his daughter, sure. The problem is that the film thinks it’s awesome.
- Similarly, Neeson shoots the innocent wife of a corrupt official so as to force information from said official. It works. A glib line -“apologise to your wife for me” – is the only acknowledgement we get that maybe it was a dubious tactic.
- Every woman in the film except for Famke Janssen is shot, raped, murdered or forcibly addicted to drugs.
- Talking of Janssen, she escapes being directly abused but instead plays an entirely powerless, useless housewife character that sits around doing nothing for the entire film. I couldn’t help but think back fondly to the same actress in the X-Men films kicking ass. Hell, even in the unabashedly misogynistic James Bond series she still held her own and carved out an awesome character.
- The film somehow thinks that 6+ months of rich, white girls being kidnapped in Paris wouldn’t have been noticed by anybody. Erm.
- Neeson somehow infiltrates the Evil Albanian hideout as a French inspector, despite speaking with an American accent throughout. What?
Anyway. I could go on, but the film doesn’t really deserve any more of my time.
That was cathartic, thanks.
Daniel Wood · August 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm
A tongue-in-cheek response:
1. As the Bourne movies have clearly illustrated, waving one’s hands about in a speedy and or bendy fashion is how to win fights
2. That was actually test footage for Quantum of Solace’s quarry chase scene being used to gauge audience reaction
3. That will be addressed in Taken 3, where Holly Valance returns as the mother of Amanda
4. See 1
5. This is standard operating procedure. See: The 12 endings of The Lord of the Rings
2. Are you saying this film cynically appealed to deluded popular sentiment as reinforced almost daily by our media and/or governments?
3. See 2
4/5. If you cut off the other endings, and a few minutes at the start, the film is actually about a sociopathic spree-murderer using brute force to save a photogenic American from the nasty terrorist-criminals, which is almost a scathing commentary on US foreign policy. At least, that’s one overly generous way of looking at it. Probably it’s just some guy killing/maiming people.
6/7. On the plus side, there wasn’t a single interview afterwards about the “strong female characters”
8. Perhaps they were on strike (I kid)
9. It’s the Irish undertones that sell it
Laura · March 1, 2014 at 1:27 am
This is a fantastic post.
Ken Sears · January 11, 2020 at 2:30 am
Just watching this movie for the first time right now. I suppose I have a lot less respect, therefore far fewer expectations of movies than you do. It’s just movies. Grown-ups pretending, and the more serious they take themselves, the sillier it is. Which is why I find your criticisms of this movie funny. In the real world, a pack of evil low-life’s steal a girl, her father launches off Lone Ranger style to find her and destroy them all, he locates them in their lair and they shoot him dead. End of movie. So I don’t take this movie any more seriously than…a movie. Just watching the part now where, as I have just found out from you, he is going to leave the guy to be electrocuted to death. I don’t know, I don’t know, pleeeeeezzzzz. Goodnight.
butterbean · January 14, 2020 at 5:45 pm
After reading your post 2 things are painfully obvious #1 you are not an American and #2 you dont have children if you did the movie would make perfect sence
Ken Sears · January 15, 2020 at 1:49 pm
Wrong, I am an American. Though what on earth that could possibly have to do with it is beyond me. You seem, incredibly, to be suggesting only Americans love their children. But right, I don’t have children. Your inference that I must therefore be dead to the feelings of a parent in a real situation like that is just silly, however. This movie is not a real situation like that. It’s actors reading lines, it’s makeup, costumes, manipulative background music, directing, and…well, acting. It’s a movie. Your inference strikes me as a case of Suspension of Disbelief on mega-steroids. News flash: it’s a m-o-v-i-e. By the way, I don’t do Suspension of Disbelief. When I see the scene with the Neeson character electrocuting the guy to death, I see two actors who are going to have a laugh and a coffee together as soon as the director says “Cut.”
Richard Crotty · March 10, 2020 at 12:07 am
To respond 2 ur reasons 4 movie being “unworthy of ur time”.. etc.. 1. Comment about Amanda’s death/30 sec sadness & then..nothing else.. Well, my take on that would be, Mills only has a 96hr window of time2find his dotr, & at end wen Kim seems only concerned bout her singing.. etc.. i guess what happened2all the girls, is a life changing/altering experience, (for the worse) , but i assume anything2help her forget experience is good.. but i see ur point in how quick plot/scenes change w/o any reference from 1to the other.
2. The film glorifying torture/murder to the “bad” guys.. my opinion on that for the film & real life..is F_ck’m, anybdy that abuses a woman/girl should “Be left where you find’m” For people that do that for a living..there is no court of law for them, cuz jail is nothing to them..look how they live.. Torture,etc.. i get it, 2wrongs dont make it right.. but if that was me in that situation, & if somehow i was able to get hold of bad man in real life.. i would like2 have multiple days of uninterrupted privacy with him to “re-write the book on evil ways of torture” ,,,i know it dusnt change what woudve happened2 girl.. but my life from kidnapping til end, would be no life anyway..
Thank you 4 taking time 2read my comments
Maureen Feathers · October 8, 2020 at 7:15 pm
It’s a movie…a bit of a good guy thing… lighten up
Mr Balls · January 18, 2021 at 9:38 pm
Hahahaha you’ve stepped on a tonne of (highly intelligent) people’s toes with this old review. I agree wholeheartedly with you though, the film and it’s sequels are absolutely awful. It’s sickening to think that people get paid a fortune to badly act in a badly directed and badly edited film.
Simon Jones · February 17, 2021 at 8:20 pm
I find it continually amusing that this old blog post of mine STILL attracts Random Angry Internet People. 🙂
Mimi Edwards · August 8, 2021 at 6:44 am
I read all of these comments and most of them have me shaking my head! I get that there are movie critics. Some will absolutely love the movie ( me), some will hate the movie (author and creator of post). The main point for me just like any other movie, it’s for entertainment purposes only! The need to break down and tear the movie down bit by bit, scene by scene is utterly ridiculous!
chezgigi · April 12, 2021 at 12:47 am
Hey, Random Angry Internet Person here. I love the movie. Absolutely adore it. I’ve seen it multiple times. I can’t imagine that ANY stone cold reviewer with their head up their oh so British arse would deny the exquisite punishment of those scum sucking murderers.
I also adore Die Hard, The Dirty Dozen, Air Force One, A Clear and Present Danger–all the “Kill them all and let God sort it out” movies– and have no problem with the swift and sure demise of the unrighteous. In the Die Hard movie, the villain was a Brit. Are we afraid of them conquering our shores for sure the next time, but this go round they will do it one office building at a time and their failure to achieve that aim is why it’s such a fun movie? Try as they might in that movie and the sequel, they just don’t cut the mustard. Much like the Irish and other foreigners fail against Harrison Ford. (Why would we be afraid of the Irish, she wondered in an aside, apropos of the charge of hypochondria, or agoraphobia, or something along those lines. Fear of bananas, maybe.)
In other words, stuff a sock in it. You are reading WAY too much into this movie. Besides which, I had a few questions about this movie and every other movie and my questions never get answered. Like, why wouldn’t a few hundred parents from around the world be screaming at the French government right about now–the girl he put on an IV was French, I believe–and also, how did the kidnappers categorize the girls? Some were sent to the “‘ouse with the red door”, some walked the streets under the watchful eye of a construction superintendent (!!)–where DOES he find the time, asked every fully employed mother everywhere– some went to the house full of murdering Albanians where the unmourned Amanda was stowed, and some were “certified pure” and went to a POS sheikh, whose henchman had the nerve to call Liam a “dog.”
Just recently, I read something about Arabs being classified as white, much like the majority of Brits and Irish, which creates much confusion here as to who we are really supposed to hate–the Albanians, the French, the Saudis, or girls who sleep with guys on the first date?
The truly puzzling aspect of the movie, which you completely overlooked, was where they found so many adult female virgins to sell for a quarter of a million and more. A whole group of them boarded that yacht bound for the delirious pleasures to be found in an old whale’s flabby penis. He’s trying to get a piece of heaven and sample those 72 virgins he was promised as a young lad. He’s probably way ahead of the Promised Land at this point, being rich and old. Furthermore, some of those girls might have gone along with it willingly, which opens up another avenue of exploration. Maybe willingness is a turn off for men?
As for Liam not investigatin’, he did plenty and was very good at it. Sure, the clues were convenient, but what do you want from Hollywood? They can’t do nothin’ anymore–send Rocky on a mission to Mexico and he’s a racist. Send Liam on missions to Paris and Turkey and he’s a racist. The point is not that he’s a racist, it’s that Americans want to see the French suffer for being such bleeding hearts and letting immigrants, and duly elected and appointed politicians, run rampant over their laws and liberal nature. Something many Americans are afraid of happening here, which it already has.
There’s a moral lesson to be learned here, and it has nothing to do with whether or not you keep your “girlhood” intact from male marauding, either.
As for Famke, leave her be. She was virtually a single mom for many years and now she gets to enjoy herself. She’s still using the Thighmaster, though. No worries.
BitterCat · July 11, 2021 at 8:23 am
This film is a failure even on its own terms. Mills is supposed to be great at his former job, but he totally blows getting any info from his first lead, the spotter Peter, by going in with such a heavy hand. Why not try talking to or bribing the guy before you switch to all-out beating? This is not the way to get intelligence. Peter seems to have a partner, who tries to stop Mills, but Mills never bothers to try to find that guy. Why is it Mills can shoot his way through entire construction sites, but has to get someone to buy his way into a glass booth? How does Mills get out of France after doing things like shooting the wife of a top security minister, or whatever Jean-Claude was? (And btw, getting shot in the shoulder is not “a flesh wound.” I know someone that happened to, and she lost much of the use of her hand.) Why does Mills never bother to report anything about the huge human trafficking situation he uncovers? It’s crazy that people are supporting the film as moral in any way. It’s not a righteous exposé of trafficking, when it leaves all the victims to continue suffering, except for one lucky American girl. The suffering is just plot motivation, and totally exploitive.
Simon Jones · July 11, 2021 at 8:53 am