Courtesy of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay and their ‘Funny or Die’ website and taking its cues from Napoleon Dynamite and The Office this is one hell of a quotable comedy. As a result it will be brilliantly appropriate for repeated drunken viewings. Comedy is a difficult subject to review, it engenders a much more subjective viewpoint, one persons Bill Hicks is another persons Jethro. So take it from me, if you thought The Office was cringe-worthy or that Napoleon Dynamite was just plain weird, steer clear of this. If you thought they were funny then give The Foot Fist Way a try and marvel at Danny McBride’s creation, Tae-Kwon Do instructor Fred Simmons. A man who is so comically unaware of his failings that by half-way through the film you’ll be willing this loser to succeed. And for what it’s worth I laughed my arse off from about 10 minutes in, right until the end.
Taken is a truly post-Bourne film. We’ve moved on completely from the muscle-bound action heroes of the late 80s and early 90s via the wire-fu and firearm acrobatics of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and John Woo respectively. Where are we now? Taken is a great illustration of the current trend, the fighting and gunplay are bonecrackingly kinetic, Europe is the preferred backdrop and torture is an acceptable tool in the burgeoning arsenal of the hero. There’s a very economical approach to narrative, the set up is dealt with in 15 minutes. Liam Neeson is Bryan Mills, his daughter has been kidnapped and he is going to tear-arse around Paris cracking heads and gunning his way through the criminal underworld until he gets her back. Hmmm, succinct. There really is no narrative progression from 15/20 minutes onwards, instead there is pain. Skull-crunching, limb-busting pain. It’s worth noting that Bryan Mills is a curiously unsympathetic hero, he genuinely doesn’t care who he steps on to get back his daughter – innocent or guilty – they’re in his way. In this way the film differs from the Bourne trilogy, as it ends you’ll feel no sense of empathy with Mills, you certainly won’t like him.
Whilst it may be an unsatisfying meal for your mind, Taken is a feast for the eyes and a shot of adrenaline in the arm. It mightn’t linger long in the memory but the sight of Liam Neeson smacking someones head in a car door certainly entertains.