Multiplex Horrors No.1: ‘Taken’
Made by the French presumably as a cruel joke against Americans, this Luc Besson-produced film is uncomfortable from its first shot and just gets creepier by the minute. Liam Neeson, who couldn’t look more awkward if he had been made to perform without pants, was clearly the tenth choice for the role of action hero in this anti-tourism feature. With his strange wiggy-hair and patented blank-angry face on throughout, he obsesses over his 17 year old daughter until the word ‘incest’ starts popping into your head every time he finds a way to drag her into the conversation.
And mention her he does – a lot. To his ex-wife, his bored mates, anyone who’ll listen, despite the fact that he ignored her all the years he was working for the CIA. When she decides to go to Paris he reacts as if she just suggested going to Syria for a holiday. He cites the deadly perils of Europe, as if assassins are likely to jump out from behind every baguette counter, but we know he just wants to keep her all for himself.
Then he’s required to sign some kind of legal form to let her go; does this sort of thing really happen? Have I been living in a dream world, thinking kids could do what they wanted without getting their parents to sign affidavits?
Within seconds of arriving at Charles De Gaulle she and her friend have naturally been white-slave trafficked (an idea that first saw light in pulp magazines in 1907) and Neeson announces he’ll find her even if he has to ‘tear down the Eiffel Tower’. Clearly he’s a man of rare psychic powers – she didn’t heed his prescient warnings, and now she’ll suffer.
Soon Neeson’s directly or indirectly responsible for slaughtering half the migrant population of Paris and destroying the city’s infrastructure, blithely ignoring any other trapped innocents in favour of finding his daughter.
Confronting a corrupt cop (we’re never told how he knows the cop is corrupt, so I guess the corruption of the French is assumed) he chooses to shoot the cop’s innocent wife, ‘Just a flesh wound’, before running roughshod over the laws of logic and probability to be reunited with ‘Kimmy’. Along the way he fins her travelling pal dead – a fate she richly deserved after arriving at a chic Parisienne apartment and jumping all over the sofas with her boots on.
The white slave auction is the work of a fevered Daily Mail fantasist, not unlike those satanic circles where acolytes chant while wearing pointy white hoods. The chained girls stand under a spotlight while rich old men press voting buttons and a mothership voice makes announcements on the bids. Neeson gets his daughter back at the expense of every other girl held captive, but I guess he was in a rush to get her home.
Closer in tone to ‘The Stepfather’ than ‘Die Hard’, I can only assume ‘Taken’ is intended as a French satire on the US peacekeeping role in global politics. Every swarthy face is evil, every blonde girl good, and of course the ultimate villain turns out to be the world’s most sinister fat Arab. One to watch with a dropped jaw.