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Taken

I saw Taken, the film that assures all over protective and paranoid parents that they are right, last night.

It stars a paunchy looking Liam Neeson and is directed by Pierre Morel, whose previous claim to fame is being a cinematographer in the Transporter. Perhaps more telling is that the film is co-written by Luc Besson, and falls into the collection of films that Besson has co written, and which have all been thrillers or action flicks, and with have offered standard, by the number plot lines and characters. The early spark of his career that gave us The Professional (or Leon), the story of an assassin and his relationship with a little girl, and The Last Combat, a post apocalyptic film in which no one speaks due to damaged vocal cords, has long gone; or perhaps they were anomalies, the kinks of someone working out the start of their career, and accidentally producing something of interest. Either way, we're talking about Taken, and it's nothing like those two, and is a very by the numbers kind of thing, though the trailer isn't so bad.

The film concerns itself with Neeson's daughter, who at seventeen, lives with her mother and step father, in a rich, rich, fucking rich, world in which girls get ponies for their birthdays. Neeson's ex wife is played by Famke Janssen, who is probably best known as Jean Grey out of X-Men, and she spends most of this film coming down on Neeson while wearing a white sweater which can only stay on one of her shoulders. It doesn't matter what scene she's in: either the scene in which her daughter is abducted, or the scene in which she is returned, her left shoulder is usually on display to the audience. At times I wondered if there was suppose to be some symbolism to it. Perhaps this naked shoulder showed how raw, how emotional she was. Perhaps it revealed that when she was around her ex-husband, she could not cover up her hurt emotions. Perhaps, I finally realised, I shouldn't watch films after teaching High School english the whole day. It's bad enough that I had to watch Blade Runner, and that I spent yesterday learning about Heidegger for one stanza in a poem, and originally though of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, so I was all over the place.

It was a confusing day, yesterday.

Anyhow:

Taken itself isn't a bad flick, though it's villains are all Albanian or Middle Eastern, and are all selling and kidnapping young women, which is what happens to Neeson's daughter. When she had her friend reach Paris, they get picked up by a guy at the airport, and once he shares a cab with them to their expensive apartment, calls in his Albanian buddies to kidnap them. Neeson, fortunately, is on the phone, and guides his daughter through the kidnapping, one of the few good scenes in the film that you can, fortunately, see in the trailer. As Neeson says to the kidnappers when they pick up the phone, he is a man with many violent talents, and he plans to kill them, to which they wish him the best, and the rest of the film unfolds pretty much as you think it would. At this point, however, I feel I should note that there is an unpleasant subtext amongst the two girls, one of who is not a virgin, and one of who is, that leaves its mark in the film. About half way through the film, Neeson finds the kidnappers, and the girl who isn't a virgin is on a bed, dead; it's fairly obvious that she has been raped, and injected with such an amount of drugs that she has died; but who gives a real shit, because she was sullied goods anyhow. The virgin--or aka, Neeson's daughter--is pure, however, and she ends up in an auction, drugged out of her mind, and being sold for half a million dollars to a fat Arabian man in a purple jumpsuit. It's kind of hard to escape the judgement that is being made on young women within the background of the film, especially given that the entire premise of the film supports the idea that your children need to be watched, because when you're not there, Albanians will break in and use them in a prostitution ring that is connected to the French secret service. That last bit in the film is never really explored, I might add.

But still, the subtext, it's very conservative, very Christian, and really uncool.

But hey, at least it doesn't star Denzel Washington.

That's a little something, isn't it?

(crossposted)

Comments

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catsparx
Mar. 2nd, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
I LOVED The Last Combat. And Famke Janssen was a Bond girl before she was an X-man... and she was in an episode of Star Trek before that. So there.
benpeek
Mar. 2nd, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
i bow before your knowledge of trashy culture ;)
catsparx
Mar. 2nd, 2009 02:45 am (UTC)
as well you should
detritus2099
Mar. 2nd, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
She was a Bond girl villain that could kill you with her sexy thighs of death.

There are important distinctions to be made here.
catsparx
Mar. 2nd, 2009 05:16 am (UTC)
yes. Famke really put sexy thighs of death on the map
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Mar. 2nd, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
yeah, i agree. it was kind of crazy that you could have her stolen into this world where girls were chained to beds, dopped up, and raped, and yet she wasn't. i can only imagine there was a questionnaire when kidnapped, and one of them was, 'are you a virgin?'
maenad_au
Mar. 2nd, 2009 06:00 am (UTC)
In that world I doubt they'd have any problem with administering a vaginal exam to see if she were still intact.
benpeek
Mar. 2nd, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
they shoul've put that in the film ;)
maenad_au
Mar. 2nd, 2009 06:15 am (UTC)
I agree, it had lots of disturbing undertones. I took it mostly as anti-Muslim propaganda and an overblown revenge fantasy. I enjoyed it up until the last couple of scenes which were too much a stereotype for me to continue suspending my disbelief.
benpeek
Mar. 2nd, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
i don't know if i'd view it as anti muslum stuff, since the villiany is spread round all races and nationalities, but at the same time, there is an undeniable sense that the 'other' being they albanian or middle eastern, are kind've the bad of the bad.
ataxi
Mar. 2nd, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)
I happened to watch Taken on Friday night, and although I only had half an eye on it (the other half on some code I was writing) that half-eye rather enjoyed it.

Yes, its politics were ghastly, and its sentimentality unalloyed, and finally when daughter is rescued by father within a matter of moments she's being ushered, apparently untraumatised by all the enforced drug use and senseless violence, into her future as a slutty pop singer!

In that sense it was practically a journey into the uncensored id of a father -- the scene in which Neeson watches her, half naked and gyrating catatonically, on the auction room floor and whispers menacingly "Buy her. Buy her." into the crime lord's ear, yeesh!

It was pure trash and it did straight-facedly pretend to believe in a world where one daughter's offspring can justify any number of blood-crazed murders, and I quite liked it for that reason. I also loved the fact that it was a pseud revenge flick, but one in which the protagonist mysteriously ends up with a positive emotional bank balance. Brian Mills finishes the film without any substantial harm to him or his concerns, and with things "improved" on the family front after being comprehensively vindicated over his over-protective father stance from the start of the plotline.

Hilarious stuff.



ataxi
Mar. 2nd, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC)
"daughter's offspring" --> "daughter's abduction". Although I look forward to the sequel in which Neeson's daughter's kid is abducted. Taken: the Next Generation.
benpeek
Mar. 2nd, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
i hope there's a spaceship in it.

anyhow, i didn't hate TAKEN, and i watched it all right and sat through the whole thing without any real hassle. it just had all the other stuff in it that you could talk about in the end.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 2nd, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC)
Taken
I knew I would enjoy the trailer much more than the movie. Here's my particular fave - look at Liam! Stabbing and shooting to the beat!

http://www.traileraddict.com/trailer/taken-2008/tv-spot-2

E
benpeek
Mar. 2nd, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Taken
wow. that film was rating pg 13.

i especially like how they ay it as he's torturing a man to death.
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