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Review: 'Taken'

Thriller pits a former spy against his daughter's kidnappers and piles up the mayhem in between.

January 31, 2009

Maggie Grace is shown in a scene from Taken.

20th Century Fox/Stephanie Branchu/AP

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In "Taken," Liam Neeson plays a former government operative named Bryan Mills whose daughter is kidnapped while vacationing in Paris. Bryan calls himself a "preventer." As he explains, he "prevented bad things from happening." It's too bad he could not have prevented "Taken" from being made.

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Bryan has 96 hours (don't ask) to rescue his daughter (Maggie Grace) before she gets sold into white slavery. (Arabs, of course, are the ultimate buyers.) No one can accuse Bryan of slacking off. He spends most of his time hacking, carjacking, slicing, dicing, garroting, and torching. And he's the good guy. In one particularly repellent scene, he casually shoots the wife of a former covert op confrere in order to force him to talk. Apparently, she only suffers a flesh wound. Bryan even apologizes. Thanks for that.

Somewhere along the line, A-list stars like Daniel Craig, Matt Damon, and now, Neeson, decided that action heroes should be played as seething, dead-faced killers. This new house style, derived mostly from Bourne and his derivatives, is presented as the ultimate cool. And because these men are ostensibly just, the filmmakers can have it both ways – they exult in righteousness while piling on the mayhem. Don't be taken in by "Taken." Grade: D (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references, and language.)

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