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Taken (2008)

tomatometer

58

Average Rating: 5.8/10
Reviews Counted: 168
Fresh: 98 | Rotten: 70

Taken is undeniably fun with slick action, but is largely a brainless exercise.

44

Average Rating: 5.1/10
Critic Reviews: 41
Fresh: 18 | Rotten: 23

Taken is undeniably fun with slick action, but is largely a brainless exercise.

audience

85

liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 731,869

My Rating

Movie Info

An ex-soldier (Liam Neeson) traveling through Europe embarks on a frantic quest to rescue his daughter (Maggie Grace) after the young girl is abducted by slave traders in District B13 director Pierre Morel's contemporary thriller Taken. Robert Mark Kamen joins the screenwriting team, which also includes Morel and longtime collaborator Luc Besson, who also produces. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

May 12, 2009

$144.9M

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All Critics (169) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (98) | Rotten (70) | DVD (11)

It's fun for about 15 minutes seeing Neeson do James Bond as Daddy Dangerous. But the surprise wears off quickly.

February 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Rolling Stone | Comments (6)
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You've just kidnapped the wrong teenager, Mister Foreign Slave Trader Man.

February 7, 2009 Full Review Source: Richard Roeper.com | Comments (9)
Richard Roeper.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Taken is the kind of exploitative junk everyone expects from no-talent French hack Luc Besson.

February 4, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Observer | Comments (28)
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[Neeson's] performance is the most perturbing thing in the film, even more so than its electrical-torture sequence or its revelations about sex-trafficking.

February 2, 2009 Full Review Source: New Yorker | Comment (1)
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's the big, dolorous Neeson who makes the movie a keeper.

February 2, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Magazine
New York Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Don't be taken in by Taken.

February 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor | Comments (8)
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As Kim, Maggie Grace is a bit old to convincingly portray a boppy underage teenager, although she appears to be giving her best to a one-dimensional role that essentially disappears during the movie's slam-bang midsection.

September 29, 2011 Full Review Source: American Profile
American Profile

Neeson stars in the sort of part Harrison Ford would have gotten ten or fifteen years ago.

August 16, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express | Comment (1)
East Bay Express

The dialogue is functional at best, Bryan's motives are basic; it's all apt for this bare-knuckle punch of an action movie.

July 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Digital Spy
Digital Spy

It's so awesome to see Liam Neeson taking out the trash in pursuit of his prized child.

April 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Movies.com
Movies.com

In Taken viewers are introduced to a new side of Irish actor Liam Neeson, one that is relentless and likes to hit criminals in the throat -- a lot.

February 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Palo Alto Weekly | Comments (2)
Palo Alto Weekly

Though the film takes some time to get going, once Neeson arrives in Paris, the 91-minute runtime flies by like its stuck on fast-forward.

October 14, 2010 Full Review Source: Bullz-Eye.com
Bullz-Eye.com

Taken is a fast-paced, high-octane action movie that ... doesn't take very many detours into soul-searching melancholy.

August 30, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington Times | Comment (1)
Washington Times

I liked it, but don't expect the unexpected in this French action thriller -- especially in an ending that is about as predictable as a Pine Sol commercial.

June 10, 2009 Full Review Source: BET.com
BET.com

It's got all the attributes of a guilty pleasure - excitement, some undeniably enjoyable scenes and the absence of what it needs to be more memorable and more substantial.

June 1, 2009 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide | Comment (1)
Apollo Guide

This heart-stopping revenge flick written by Luc Besson is easily Liam Neeson's most memorable performance since his Oscar-nominated outing in Schindler's List.

May 12, 2009 Full Review Source: NewsBlaze
NewsBlaze

The action is engaging but rarely exciting; the drama heftier but still far from convincing.

May 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com | Comments (5)
Filmcritic.com

In a lesser actor's hands, the powerful impact of the subject matter would not have been so ably delivered.

April 2, 2009 Full Review Source: MovieWeb | Comment (1)

The script is more hard-hitting and realistic than [Besson's] Transporter films, which means youll only laugh out loud two or three times.

March 23, 2009
Salt Lake Tribune

Taken is the best action thriller of 2009 thus far.

March 22, 2009 Full Review Source: Entertainment Spectrum | Comments (2)
Entertainment Spectrum

This briskly paced movie delivers a full payload of action and leaves you mentally exhausted. You immediately recall the famous line from "The Wizard of Oz" that "There is no place like home."

March 20, 2009 Full Review Source: Entertainment Spectrum
Entertainment Spectrum

A morally specious but undeniably efficient brainstem-tickler -- the most effective action/revenge thriller in years.

March 6, 2009 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Neeson delivers a typically compelling performance in (for him) an atypically muscle-bound role.

March 3, 2009 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Fortunately, somewhat-sloppy storytelling never gets in the way of this briskly paced action adventure.

March 1, 2009 Full Review Source: Sean the Movie Guy

A bizarre mix of sentimentality and bone-cracking violence, this Hardcore/Not Without My Daughter hybrid pits a determined father against the thuggish Albanian sex traffickers who kidnapped daddy's little girl as she vacationed in Paris.<

March 1, 2009 Full Review Source: Miss FlickChick | Comments (4)
Miss FlickChick

Audience Reviews for Taken

A retired ex-secret serviceman is trying to make amends with his estranged daughter when she is kidnapped in Paris by white slave traders. Taken is on paper a very straightforward, almost tired sounding idea that you've heard a thousand times before. It's an unpretentious action thriller that plays out like a revenge story, except there is a goal outside of vengeance; a father's unstoppable wish to protect his daughter from harm. The first 30 minutes is the usual predictable and slightly clumsy exposition, but once Neeson springs into action it becomes an altogether different beast. Neeson is not the kind of action hero who looks like he'd shy from a fight for the fear of mussing his hair. Instead we get an ageing Irish terminator cutting a swathe through the kind of evil bastards even a guilt-ridden white liberal such as myself feels a tingle of pleasure to see brutally disposed of. The appearance of Holly Valance is a little embarrassing and sits about as comfortably as pink frosting atop a T-bone steak and made me suspect that her agent beat the producer at cards the night before shooting but otherwise it does exactly what is says on the tin. Plotless in almost a pleasing way, this is kind of like James Bond going rogue except "this time it's personal"; there are no stereotypical terrorists threatening our fat cat white Christian way of life, no shadowy conspiracies or megalomaniacs, just a single-minded feast of adrenaline fuelled action that I really enjoyed. One of my future guilty pleasures and no mistake...
April 3, 2013
garyX
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

I dislike traditional action flicks, and this is a pretty traditional one. Not much to like here, the story isn't especially gripping and it even gets cheesy at points.
March 11, 2013
Sanjay Rema

Super Reviewer

In my review of Unknown 18 months ago, I spoke about how actors can often have a second, very different career after their initial fame or recognition has passed. In addition to the examples I listed in that review, along with all of John Travolta's comebacks, we can now add Liam Neeson to the list of actors whose later career is taking a very different shape to the roles which made him famous.

Taken is the result of two growing trends in filmmaking: older protagonists as a reaction to a market saturated with youth, and weighty actors downsizing into trashy B-movies. Even considering how clichéd the premise is, it should be fun to see the star of Schindler's List and Michael Collins run around beating up men half his age. But what starts as a fun if overly familiar thriller eventually descends into something a lot more nasty, so that the end result is just plain and simple rubbish.

The film starts fine enough, with a number of scenes which set up our main characters and make them likeable. The characters are all painted in very broad strokes, with the likeability coming from the screen presence of the actors rather than the lines they are delivering. The setup is clichéd and contrived, revolving around a retired special agent who has family problems, and whose friends are also retired agents who moonlight at bodyguards. But Liam Neeson and Famke Janssen both have enough screen presence to make us feel engaged, if not impressed.

The other big asset of Taken is its pacing. It is paced as a B-movie should be, clocking in at just under 90 minutes and moving from scene to scene like it is trying to get a job done. The film is produced by Luc Besson, and whatever else may be true of him, he does not make films that hang around unnecessarily. The action, up to the hour mark at least, hits all the beats that it needs to and cutting from scene to scene at just the right time. Pierre Morel compliments Besson very well, bringing a Hollywood sensibility without too much of the accompanying excess.

As efficient as Taken is, however, it is also deeply derivative. I've spoken in the past about the difference between a cliché and a convention, the key being that if we are engrossed enough in the story or the action, then the more well-worn elements are less likely to bother us. Considering how fast-paced and lean Taken is, you'd expect these familiar touches to be easy to ignore or gloss over, but they are often so blatantly obvious that this becomes impossible.

For starters, the camerawork is incredibly sub-Bourne, relying on very clumsy hand-held work and needless choppy editing during the car chases. Like many filmmakers who have aped the style of the Bourne series, Morel seems to understand how to achieve the effect but doesn't understand what the effect is for. Paul Greengrass used handheld camerawork to bring a realistic, documentarian feel to the Bourne films; the action was directed in such a way that it felt spontaneous and visceral. With Taken, there is so much artifice in the set-up and plot mechanics that this technique doesn't work, resulting in nothing more than visual incoherence.

While many B-movies recycle plots from films at or below their station, this film pinches plot points from more upmarket films, perhaps in a bid to give itself mainstream credibility. The scene where Neeson uses a photo booth to enlarge a photo of the kidnapper's face is a shameless rip-off of Blade Runner, recreating the shot with none of the intrigue or patience. The interpreter who appears very briefly is a straight lift from the Sherlock Holmes story 'The Greek Interpreter', being a character who is asked to interpret without knowing where he is, what he is doing or why. The death scene involving the bulldozer is essentially a reworking of the ridiculous surfboard death in Lethal Weapon 2, and the recurring mention of "good luck" is a clunking and ineffective nod to The Great Escape.

Then we come to the film's casual racism, evident in its characterisation of Europeans. Despite its modern camerawork and aesthetic, it is a very old-fashioned, retrograde thriller in which anyone who doesn't come from America is simply evil. The film focuses a lot of its energy on the Albanians, stereotyping them as vicious human traffickers with an overlord so silly, he could have come straight from a Tintin comic. But the French are also slandered, with the main French character being cowardly, corrupt and never more than a few yards from either wine or a baguette.

You might make the point at this juncture that this kind of stereotyping simply comes with the territory. B-movies have often depicted American protagonists fighting other races under the banner of entertainment, a trend which has carried over to the mainstream via Raiders of the Lost Ark. The difference, however, is that Raiders doesn't play the Nazis' race for laughs: Indiana Jones could be punching hundreds of bad Americans out and it would still be awesome. Taken actively relies on the foreign nature of its bad guys, using racial stereotypes to reinforce its protagonist in the absence of any more developed story or characterisations.

Up to the hour mark, what we have is a stupid, derivative and racist but efficiently made action thriller. The action is very paint-by-numbers, and the camerawork is poor, but there's enough humour and silliness to keep us entertained. The enjoyment we get from Neeson and the slick execution is in such abundance that the film is a borderline guilty pleasure. And then we come to the torture scene, after which the film takes a nose dive and never recovers.

There has been an awful lot of press recently about the depiction of torture in films, particularly in regard to Zero Dark Thirty and whether it condones or condemns the use of torture. In the case of Taken, there can be no such debates: the film blatantly condones torture as a means of getting information, and then throws in a touch of sadism by having our hero leave the victim to slowly fry. This scene has none of the humour of the torture scene in Casino Royale, or even Reservoir Dogs: it leaves a really nasty taste in the mouth and goes somewhere to alienating our protagonist.

After this scene, the sleazier parts of Taken start to bother us more. The film shoots itself in the foot in this regard, cranking up both the body count and the scenes of scantily-clad women. We're meant to feel like the stakes are being raised, but all that's different is that we now deeply dislike Neeson's character. He has gone from someone doing what he must to a vengeful and vindictive murderer, and there is no Get Carter-style twist to mitigate just how reprehensible he's being.

The film's attempts to up the ante with the action also betray even more derivative aspects. Having put up with certain scenes or character traits up to this point, we know begin to pick up on shots or compositions that the film recycles from better genre movies. The Albanians' derivative deaths range from having their heads slammed in car doors (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) to being hit in the head repeatedly with a fire extinguisher (Irreversible). The scene of the different mobsters bidding on the girls feels like the underground executive scene in Mulholland Drive, but without any of the intelligence, the intrigue or the mystery. Having already lost its audience, the film proves that it doesn't have an original bone in its body, being in every way, shape or form the product of a hack.

Taken is a really poor action film that fails to fulfil on what little potential it possessed. While its pacing is laudable and its performances are initially likeable, all the problems which bubble under the surface at the start are thrust wide into the open after the torture scene, after which it has nowhere to go. Neeson give it his all, but there is a bittersweetness here too, considering the direction this film has led him down in his later career. In short, it's awful - and it has an awful lot to answer for.
February 23, 2013
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

    1. Bryan Mills: I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you're looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you.
    – Submitted by Abhishek S (13 months ago)
    1. Bryan Mills: I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you....
    – Submitted by Melvin V (17 months ago)
    1. Bryan Mills: I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.
    – Submitted by Yasser F (18 months ago)
    1. Bryan Mills: By the way, which one of you is Marko?
    2. Marko: We are all Marko.
    3. Bryan Mills: Marko, from Tropoja.
    4. Marko: We are all from Tropoja...
    5. Bryan Mills: ...If that's the game you want to play the rates just went up ten percent.
    – Submitted by Zach W (18 months ago)
    1. Bryan Mills: You don't remember me? We spoke on the phone...I told you I would find you. [goes on to kick 5 different Marco's butts]
    – Submitted by Pete G (19 months ago)
    1. Kim: Mom said your job made you paranoid.
    2. Bryan Mills: Well, my job made me aware.
    – Submitted by Directors C (20 months ago)
View all quotes (23)

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