Parents, if you’re tempted to allow your teenagers to travel on their own to Europe, watch Taken before you decide. Today’s Europe is a far cry from the romantic picture that many Americans still imagine. Bad things can and do happen to naive teens arriving for an adventure. Having visited France, the setting for Taken, several times in the past decade, I can say firsthand that this country has been inundated with emigres from eastern Europe, and not all of them are innocents in search of freedom. Organized crime has assumed a new face with new mobsters, and in some cases, the newcomers are more ruthless than the natives.
The plot of Taken centers upon a former CIA agent Bryan Mills, portrayed by Liam Neeson, whose daughter is off on a European jaunt, only to be victimized by Albanians eager to sell her virginal charms to the highest bidder. Film maker Luc Besson, whose rep was made by such action thrillers as La Femme Nikita, ramps up the tension by having the abduction take place during a phone call from father to daughter, during which he coaches her to feed him vital info about the thugs. When one of them picks up the cellphone, Mills warns them to release his daughter or face his considerable, professional wrath. Of course, they blow off his warning. But two days later, he’s onto them, and never, ever lets go.
Neeson displays his physical side, literally mowing down anyone who stands in his way with an arsenal of awesome martial arts moves and laser-eyed shooting ability. Keep in mind that I normally abhor films with brutal scenes of torture and endless chase scenes. I’ve recently read a lot, however, about sex trafficking, and have to admit that I was rooting for Mills to turn up the electricity and take out those SOB’s. Much of the action is totally implausible, but the crime is so heinous that I don’t care. Neeson brings a knife edged, single minded, merciless sense of purpose to this role, and while the daughter and her mother are mindless social twits, it’s hard not to pull for him every hard-won, a** kicking step of the way.