Sunday, February 27, 2011


This movie is number one at the box office for a lot of good reasons, but despite them, it feels a bit too engineered for my taste.

The film's positives are apparent and many. As Taken 1.5, Scott's nickname for it, it capitalizes on that earlier film's use of Liam Neeson as an action star. Neeson brings his full brooding, wide-eyed, hulking, shambling intensity to bear on this role as the doctor who's lost his past, and he does it well. He truly gets the most out of all his scenes and lines.

The German settings provide appropriately exotic, luxurious, and run-down locations, and they always deliver that European feel that clearly conveys the sense of the safely exotic that draws American audiences.

Diane Kruger, the female lead, plays her role well, giving it a good mix of tenderness and toughness and working hard to make sense of how quickly her tough character falls for Neeson--which without the character's behavior would be impossible to buy.

The cast as a whole delivers the goods, with lovely performances by Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella being particular stand-outs. (January Jones, however, continues to leave me cold. As long as she is the pretty ice blond who has only to smolder or giggle, she is fine, but those moves define the limits of her performance here.)

What's wrong with this film is that it feels at every moment like it was built to do boffo box office rather than to tell a story the way that story should be told. (I retreat here to passive voice because I have no clue which folks controlled its construction.) The beginning feels slow because the formula is to give two hours of entertainment. The wrap-up leaves the two characters together--trying to avoid a spoiler here--because the audience wants that, not because the people they play would be together. And so on.

I walked out of the theater having enjoyed it, but I would have enjoyed it even more if it had embraced a European sensibility as well as it did the European locations and ultimately let the characters do what they really would have done--a choice that would, of course, have hurt its American business.

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