I call the Taken movies as the Die Hard for the 21st century. Not that the Die Hard franchise isn’t making movies in this century but the real Die Hard – the first two movies – are special and that same kinda of element is brought to the screens with Taken.
Now I hadn’t seen Taken until 2 weeks ago but waited until I could watch the sequel so I could write up a review of the two movies paired together. Most of you have already seen Taken and loved it and I did too. And it’s a 2008 French film (not American or British) co-written and produced by Luc Besson, starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen. The screenplay was written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, and the movie was directed by Pierre Morel with Xander Berkley, Katie Cassidy, Leland Orser & Jon Gries playing supporting roles. Neeson plays former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operative Bryan Mills, who now does private security for celebs along with his former colleagues. He is divorced and quit the CIA so he could be closer to his teenage daughter Kim who lives with her mother Lenore & wealthy stepfather Stuart in Los Angeles. Bryan is worried that Kim is traveling to France with her best friend Amanda and is pressure by Lenore not to be over protective. However he is even more worried when he finds out that they girls are not just staying in Paris but following U2 on their European tour.
At the Paris airport the two girls meet Peter, a charming young Frenchman who shares a cab with them to find out where they are staying. He is in fact a scout for a kidnappers gang that sells young women & girls as sex slaves. Peter relays the girls’ temporary residence to the gang and leaves. Kim is upset on finding that Amanda’s cousin isn’t home and it’s just the two of them alone in Paris. As she calls her father on a phone her gave her, the gang force their way in and kidnap Amanda and search for her. Bryan instructs her to go to the nearest room and hide under a bed. He explains that when the men find her, she has to shout out their physical descriptions. Kim is pulled out from under the bed, and she complies with her father’s instructions before the phone is found and destroyed. Bryan then informs Stuart & Lenore about the kidnapping and makes plans to go to Paris Bryan’s former colleague Sam tells him that based on the recording, Kim has probably been taken by an Albanian human trafficking ring that has recently begun abducting female tourists. He also says that if she is not rescued within ninety-six hours, she will likely never be found. At Paris Bryan meets with a former French intelligence officer who is less than helpful but does direct him to the gangs possible location. Bryan finds a girl in a drug induced state at a makeshift brotel and rescues her after fighting the guards; she manages to give him locations to a house where Kim could be kept. At the house he finds the Albanians and wounds Marko, the leader, and shoots the others dead and finds a dead Amanda. He tortures Marko to find out that Kim is being auctioned of on the black market as a virgin slave.
Bryan gets to the mansion where the auction is taking place and forced a bidder at gun point to purchase Kim but gets captured. He frees himself and kills the henchmen and finds Kim on a rich sheiks yatch. There, he kills the boat’s guards, confronts the sheikh in his boudoir, and shoots him in the head and rescues his daughter. They return to the U.S. where she is reunited with her mother and stepfather. Afterwards Bryan takes Kim to a famous pop singer, one who’s life he had saved, for lessons on singing as Kim has aspirations to be a singer.
The sequel Taken 2 was released in 2012 directed by Olivier Megaton and co-written by kamen & Besson, who also produced it. At a funeral in Albania the mobster are buried with Marko’s father Murad, who is also leader of the gang, vowing to take revenge on the man who killed them and wounded all the parents, wives & children of the dead. Murad & his men capture & torture the corrupt policeman from the first movie to find Bryan’s location. Meanwhile Kim is trying to set up Bryan & Lenore, who is having problems with her current husband Stuart. They join Bryan in Istanbul, where he has just wrapped up a job and settle into a luxury hotel. The next day, as Kim stays back to lounge at the hotel pool, Lenore and Bryan go out for lunch and are followed by a car. After a chase they capture Lenore, forcing Bryan to drop his weapon and gives up but before he does, he calls Kim and warns her. Kim hides in a hidden closet in Bryan’s room; her would-be abductors shoot another hotel guest and two security guards, but fail to find her and are forced to flee.
Bryan wakes with his hands tied to a pole in a dark room. Using a communication device that he had hidden in his sock, Bryan calls Kim, instructing her to go to the US Embassy and tell them what happened, but she begs for a chance to help him and Lenore. Under Bryan’s guidance, she opens his suitcase, containing weapons, and throws a grenade onto a deserted rooftop parking lot. Bryan uses the time it takes for the sound of the explosion to reach him to help locate where he is. He then has her take a gun and two more grenades and take to the rooftops, while he frees himself from his restraints. Two more grenade detonations enable Bryan to guide Kim close enough to see steam he sends up a chimney to mark his precise location. Kim tosses the gun down the chimney. Bryan uses it to kill the Albanians in the building, then saves Kim from her rooftop pursuer. Lenore, however, is taken away by her captors. Bryan & Kim steal a taxi and crash their way into the US embassy where he leaves her safe and then heads out to look for Lenore. He traces hi way to Murad’s hideout using the directions he he memorized from his abduction. Then he goes on a killing spree of the mobster’s men, with a solid hand to hand fight with one of them and corner’s a lone Murad. The mob boss confirms Bryan’s guess that his two remaining sons will seek revenge if Bryan kills him. Bryan offers to let Murad live if he gives his word to end his vendetta. When the man nods his head, Bryan drops his gun and starts to walk away.
The mobster seeking revenge grabs the gun only to find it empty as Bryan has removed it and is then killed by Bryan. 3 weeks later, after having passed her driver’s test, Kim is celebrating with Lenore & Bryan at a diner having sundaes when her boyfriend Jamie arrives. He had an awkward scene earlier with Bryan and now the father is more welcoming of the boy. As the movie ends Kim jokingly asks her father not to kill Jamie as she likes him.
Like I said, I call it Die Hard for the 21st century. One man against a mob, killing so many and not getting arrested or killed himself. In 2 movies the family do get hurt but none of them are killed. Seems unrealistic but Neeson pulls it off as an actor who can “act” in this kind of action movie. If done well, it can be highly entertaining. The first one does that the second not so much and it gets very predictable. Taken gets an 8 out 10 while Taken 2 gets a 6.5 out 10 from me!