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Friday, January 30, 2009


I had a horrible nightmare the night before last, probably the worst I’ve ever had. In it I was in bed sleeping, which is always weird since I really am in bed sleeping, only in the dream I wake up and I realize I am not alone and I’ve got that “satisfied” feeling (wink wink, nudge nudge) so I realize I’m with the man of my dreams (literally). I smile and stretch, then cuddle up next to my beautiful future ex-husband Hugh Jackman, only when he stirs as I wrap my arms around him, he turns towards me and instead I find myself face-to-busted-face with the most unattractive human being on this planet, that walking skid mark Mickey Roarke.

With this kind of shock I woke up screaming and realized it was all some bizarre
Oscar nominations time night terror brought on by stress, and I pulled myself together and realized what I needed was to go see a movie ~ any movie ~ as long as it had a leading man in it whose face did not look like it had been hit straight-on with a bag full of bricks. For this reason, I decided on Taken, starring Liam Neeson (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), who only looks like he’s been hit in the face with a bag full of Lucky Charms and maybe a kitten or two.

Liam plays Bryan Mills, a recently retired CIA agent with a peculiar semi-Irish accent he keeps trying to hide for no apparent reason other than to convince us he is a true blue American. Mills has
apparently decided after ruining his marriage and his relationship with his teenage daughter that he will finally quit his job and play nice with both of them. This is particularly odd now considering that his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen; X-Men 3: The Last Stand) is already remarried, this time to an ϋber-rich tycoon named Stuart (Xander Berkeley; Fracture), who has basically bought her affections and those of Bryan’s shallow and airheaded daughter Kim (Maggie Grace; tv’s “Lost”).

Apparently director Pierre Morel (Banlieue 13) has failing vision or a distorted idea of what American teenagers look like from watching television shows like “Smallville” and “90210” where it is common to find “teen” leads who are rapidly approaching middle age. If Maggie Grace is passing for 17, the birthday she allegedly celebrates in Taken, then I could pass for 28 (well, maybe in dog years).

In no time, Kim convinces her reluctant father to let her head off to Paris with a friend, Amanda (Katie Cassidy; You Are Here) where she is to rendezvous with a couple of Amanda’s older cousins who live there. There’s only one glitch he doesn’t know about and Amanda “forgets” to mention to Kim as well. The cousins are in Spain for the summer, so their apartment is an unchaperoned paradise for the girls ~ for about three minutes or so anyway. That’s how long they have to settle in before they are kidnapped by a group of masked men dressed in black.

In the midst of all this chaos, Kim just happens to be on her cell phone with her father, but she hardly has a chance to tell him what is happening before she is roughly snatched away along with Amanda. Unfortunately for the kidnappers, one of them makes the mistake of mocking Bryan before he
hangs up Kim’s phone. You know in movies like this you should never dare the daddy to try and find his “baby.” It’s just going to piss off the hero and he’s going to go all mishuggah on the bad guys even if he’s got to fly 6,000 miles in an hour or two to get there.

What happens next is fairly predictable but not without its exciting moments nonetheless. Guns blast, cars get chased, threats are exchanged, and sneaky goings-on go on. The big (?) difference between this and most kidnapping sagas is that there is no ransom or mistaken identities twists involved. This is all about the flesh. A step closer to some blend of Transporter 3 and Hostel 2 than it might want to admit,
Taken is about a cartel of dealers who sell women at a hi-tech international auction with no questions asked about what becomes of the “merchandise” after it is purchased.

Now, in the few moments of character introduction and development offered before she was shipped off to France and her abduction, Kim provided enough of a glimpse of who she was to let
us know she is a spoiled and insensitive girl, whose loyalties flit to whoever offers her the biggest bling in that particular moment. She also whines like an engine on a frigid morning, and she ought to know all about ‘frigid’ having grown up around her mother. Oh, and Kimmy is a virgin. That, of course, is a key piece (so to speak) that makes her a key piece on the sales floor. Frankly, not rescuing her wouldn’t be all that tragic.

And speaking of ‘frigid’, it’s a shame Bryan couldn’t have dragged his ex-wife along on the rescue mission. After all, in another life she was an X-Man (X-Woman?), but, more importantly, in this movie all she does is stand around making a face like a cat’s ass and sounding bitter and nasty towards Bryan. Umm. I’d think that since she’s now married to the rich guy and living in a mansion with hot-and-cold running servants she’d get over herself.

As for Bryan himself, I didn’t mind him so much even if he did sound like he had a mouthful of shamrocks every time spoke, but then, about half-way through the movie he decides to get pissy with a French former colleague and friend, Jean Claude (Olivier Rabourdin; La Clef) by shooting Jean Claude’s lovely wife Isabelle (Camille Japy; La Vie d'artiste) in the arm as she is serving him a nice home-cooked dinner just so he can make a point. Er, excuse me. Doesn’t this kind of behavior put him in the same category of barbarianism as the kidnappers he is seeking? How distasteful.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve gone to a movie where I cared so little about all of the “good guys” involved. By the end of
Taken I not only didn’t care if Kim was rescued, I was hoping her captors would make a concerted effort to off the rest of her family just for their own entertainment and ours.

For fans of action and high body counts, Taken won’t disappoint as the film is full of both, with Neeson taking on a veritable army of foes single-handed (all of whom are apparently lousy shots, terrible drivers, and rotten at martial arts). For anyone interested in caring about the people you are rooting for, however, you’d be a lot better off seeing Slumdog Millionaire.

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