Recently Taken3 was added to Amazon Instant Video. I had heard good things about this franchise, and decided it was time to give the first movie a go. With 4.4 stars out of 5 on Amazon Reviews, this was going to be good.
Oh Amazon, you tricked me on this one. This movie was a turd, and the fact that it gets so many good reviews worries me about mankind.
See, I don’t mind brutal mindless action movies. I actually enjoy them, a lot. I recently watched John Wick and it was freaking awesome. Taken and John Wick are both revenge movies, so what’s the difference? The main difference is that John Wick is totally honest about what it is. John Wick tells you “I’m a dumb action movie, you’re gonna see a badass dude kill a bunch of russian gangsters just because he can, and because they killed his dog, and you’ll enjoy seeing them get killed”.
Taken, on the other hand, pretends to be a movie about father-daughter love and about women trafficking. Some people go as far as saying that Taken has “opened their eyes” about Women trafficking. Really? Wow.
Taken is not a movie about women trafficking. It’s not a movie about a father-daughter relationship. It’s a dumb revenge movie, and after 30 minutes of watching it, you’ll ask yourself who can possibly root for this guy or his daughter.
The plot of the movie is quite simple: Liam Neeson plays as an estranged father to his 17 year old daughter. He used to be a spy, spent lots of his time to help his country, but didn’t spend enough time with his wife and daughter because of that. Wife remarried, daughter still kind of likes dad, but she prefers her new dad, because he’s rich and gave her a pony (this really happens in the movie, I’m not making that up). The daughter wants to go to France on some sort of holiday on her own with her best friend who’s also a teenager girl. Dad is concerned, because apparently Paris is a very dangerous place for two 18 year old girls. And apparently his daughter cannot go to France without his signed approval, because she’s a minor. He initially refuses, but then caves in. His daughter flies to Paris with her friend, and as the father feared, she gets kidnapped on the day she lands (OMG he was right all along!!!111oneone). Liam Neeson’s character decides to fly to Paris, find the kidnappers, and kill all of them until he finds his daughter. Spoiler alert, he succeeds, and in the process murders dozens of people in Paris, while apparently nobody in France seems to care.
Again, keep in mind that I have nothing against dumb action movies. But Taken is dishonest as an action movie, in it countless lame attempts at pretending it has a scenario, or trying to make you care about the protagonists.
The first 20 minutes of the movie are among the most cliche I have seen in a while. The movie throws everything it can at you to see what will make you care. The father looking at a photo album with pictures of his daughter. The trophy wife who’s a b*tch and divorced the dedicated-to-his-country good guy in favor of a rich douchebag. The daughter who instantly ignores her father’s gift in favor of the pony that her second dad gives her…I still can’t believe that scene, what is it, a Disney movie for 5 year olds? Does the movie need to send such obvious messages for the audience to get it?
This is not only the intro though. The whole part that is supposed to make you feel really bad about how disgusting the Albanians are when trafficking women, is just terrible. Seriously, who goes to a construction site in order to find prostitutes? Be it in disgusting places (construction site, an old apartment in Paris, the streets of Clichy), or in fancy places (the auction towards the end of the movie), everything is so obviously sordid that it contradicts its own message. The truth about prostitution and women slavery is much more nuanced than “let’s get these girls addicted to drugs and turn them into prostitutes on a construction site within 48h”.
But all of that would be ok, if it wasn’t just an excuse for a really stupid plot. Others have said it better than me, but there are so many plot holes and convenient stuff happening in the movie, that it is almost distracting. The main character is apparently bulletproof, has luck throughout the entire movie, everything is made so he can follow the linear path that leads to his daughter.
Taken is also unbelievably racist. Everyone speaks funny in this movie. France is apparently so poorly handled that they don’t seem to care about 2 American teenagers missing. They don’t seem to mind when Liam Neeson’s character brutally attacks two people at the airport, gets one of them killed by a truck, and causes a massive accident on the highway. The police and airport security are shown to be present and witness the fact, yet Neeson’s character walks freely and keeps killing people (who are innocent until proven guilty) for 3 days in France, until he flies back safely, on a regular plane, to the US. The bad guys are all foreigners: Albanians, Middle Easterns, and the French.
Remember, in the real world, last time 2 guys killed several people in Paris in cold blood, it instantly turned into a gigantic manhunt in the entire country.
Oh, and nobody seems to care that Liam Neeson pretend to be a French policeman despite speaking English with an Irish accent throughout the whole movie. Nobody seems to question that. Phew, this could have led him to trouble when he tries to get into the bad guys heavily guarded mansion.
The acting in Taken is sub-par. I wanted to punch the “daughter” in the face every time I saw her on screen. Maggie Grace was 26 when she played the role of a 17 year old girl. And she plays the role as if she were five. In the real world, 17 year old kids don’t run like this. They don’t talk like this. They don’t dream of owning a Pony or becoming singers. 17 year old and five year old are not the same kind of people! It’s not her fault that she had to play a poorly written character, but her acting definitely doesn’t help. Liam Neeson is acceptable in his role, but the rest of the cast is basically terrible. Maggie Grace’s performance is the only one that made me sick though.
Taken could have been good. It could have been a clever Bond/Bourne lookalike, where Neeson’s character could have devised a clever plot to find out the bad guys (instead of having everything laid out in such a convenient way). Or it could have been a brutal action flick not pretending to be clever. But it’s neither of those. It’s lots of melodramatic crap, with a scenario that requires you to put your suspension of disbelief up in the stratosphere, poor acting, poor editing, and sub-par action scenes.
Taken is a boring revenge action movie. There are so many better ones out there (I saw the Devil, Old Boy – the Korean one, not the crappy remake – Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, John Wick,…), so I can only assume that people who enjoy Taken are people who haven’t seen good revenge movies before.
Also, this movie was written and directed by French people. Did they really have to picture Paris as a place where American tourist teenagers get kidnapped and nobody seems to care, where the police are not only corrupt, but don’t care about people murdering each other in front of everybody else? Talk about misrepresenting the truth here. And don’t tell me “well it’s a fiction, don’t take this things too seriously”, because in that case what’s the point of pretending to anchor the plot into some serious, real world issues such as women trafficking?
This is what probably really happens in Taken: Liam Neeson’s character is angry at his daughter for her decision to leave to France, and wants badly to prove her and his wife wrong. He works with his “former spy” buddies to orchestrate a fake kidnapping of his daughter in France. He then dreams of how he saves her. Everything happens in his mind as he drinks himself to death because he has a shitty life. The End.
I could go on and on on this movie, but other reviewers have done a better job than me at pointing out its many flaws, so I’ll stop here on the specific topic of Taken.
What I’d like to talk about however, is Luc Besson. Luc Besson apparently co-wrote the scenario for Taken, and I should have stopped watching as soon as I saw his name on the screen.
See, Besson is the George Lucas of French movies: a guy who made a couple good decisions in the past, and that in exchange got a free pass to create the most smelly turds of the movie industry for decades. It gets worse, because Besson has “Hollywood like” ambitions, but doesn’t have the same budget as Hollywood movies. Hollywood movies often have lame stories, but they compensate with good acting and good editing and special effects. Directing/Editing in Taken was terrible (it was hard to not puke during the car chase at the construction site).
I’ve never really liked Luc Besson’s movies. Even as a teenager, I was reasonable enough to know that Taxi was bad across the board (except the final car chase scene). As I reflected on the films I’ve watched were Luc Besson was involved (either as a director, writer, or producer), I started to see a big amount of similarities, stuff that annoys me with his movies:
- Women are trophies (Trophy wife in Taken, Trophy girlfriend in Taxi)
- Teenage girls are weak, dumb, cute, and need to be protected (Taken, 3 Days to Kill, The fifth Element, Leon, Wasabi)
- In Leon, Natalie Portman’s character is not that dumb, but watch the movie again, you’ll realize she’s just here to give depth to Jean Reno’s character
- Men have it tough, they work hard but nobody understands them (Taken, Taxi)
- Movies pretend to have a plot, but just basically steal better movies’ ideas and implement them poorly. The result is often a movie that’s insulting to any movie watcher who’s more than 15.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the 5th element and Leon as a kid. I used to think Leon was my favorite movie. I showed it to my wife recently, and I was actually ashamed, given how thin the plot is, how bad the acting can be. But hey, it’s far from Luc Besson’s worst work.
There are of course exceptions to this, and I haven’t seen all of Besson’s movies (please don’t make me watch them). Nikita, Lucy are potentially “strong” female leads (but Lucy was a terrible movie, I couldn’t even watch it until the end. In Besson’s mind, when someone becomes super clever, it means they get ninja skills and attack everyone they meet. Interesting, I would have thought someone who becomes super clever would find business opportunities, become a super villain or something like that, not get super powers… Limitless was so much better on the same theme…)
Luc Besson is a 12 year old kid trapped in a grown up body. His writing is dumb, his scenarios are pretty much always the same, and if I were his psychiatrist I’d wonder what kind of father-daughter issues he going through. Estranged father trying to save week teenage daughter? Taken, 3 Days to Kill, Wasabi. Check. And that’s only the ones I’ve seen, there might be others.
I haven’t seen all of his movies, but I now came to the realization that every movie I’ve watched, which features the names “Luc Besson” or “Europacorp” in the credits, has been a terrible movie.
I’ll be actively avoiding the turds Luc Besson produces,direct, or writes, moving forward.