Filled with the concussive editing and sterile hyperstylization that is typical of contemporary action films, director Pierre Morel’s Taken is a brisk, relentless, and entirely generic thriller that passes by so quickly one can easily miss its many flaws. Liam Neeson lends some gravitas to a great deal of horseshit in the role of Bryan, a former government agent whose 17-year-old daughter is kidnapped in Paris. Naturally, he does precisely what any sensible father-slash-retired-secret-agent would do—he flies to France and proceeds to beat and/or kill every person even remotely related to the crime (he also leaves a swath of unaided victims who lack their own ass-kicking covert op daddies to rescue them). And while dad is busy torturing suspects with jumper cables, daughter is swallowed up into a sex-slave ring run by Albanians, her virginity menaced by—wait for it—an Arab sheikh. With a harem. Oh, those dirty, nasty brown-skinned Others!
Revenge excuses all manner of violence, and the film's xenophobic tone lends a bitter taste to what would otherwise be a merely bland tale of redemption for a failed father. Ironically, the mysterious government job that kept Bryan apart from his daughter when she was growing up and led to the dissolution of his marriage has also given him the skills necessary to become the implacable superdad that the film venerates. The moral of the story: “Daddy’s too busy to play now sweetie, but you’ll thank me later when you’re older.” The film is a validation for manipulative and emotionally distant fathers everywhere, with Bryan’s patriarchal failings magically transformed (okay, not magic, just lots of fast cutting and people being shot in the head) into parental fitness.
Incidentally, the film makes an excellent Father’s Day gift.