Thursday, 17 March 2011
Pierre Morel, Taken (2008)
I've a soft-spot for action movies, and there are some Liam Neeson films from the 1990s I don't mind at all, so when this popped up on Sky Movies rotation I thought I'd give it a go. But oh lordy I wish I hadn't.
It's a run-of-the-mill plagiary of one of Schwazenegger's more forgettable movies (Commando): retired American superspy alpha male, particularly close to his daughter, goes on the rampage when said daughter is stolen away, tracking down and killing everybody associated with the kidnap with guns and his own fists, and rescuing his little girl. Scriptwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen (Besson also produced) update and urbanize the story a little, but keep the lumpish underlying ethos, although they completely lose the saving tongue-in-cheek campness of the original.
The result is one of the most repellent and mendacious films I have ever seen. The mendacity goes, turtle-like, all the way down. Liam's daughter, a beautiful American WASP teenage virgin, is kidnapped in Paris by filthy Albanians who want to force her into sex slavery, and who sell her on to a filthy, obese Arab sheik. Liam Neeson's character comes to Paris and kills them all in a souped-up fightathon that amounts to a celebration of ethnic cleansing. I honestly can't think of a more nakedly racist mainstream movie released this century. Of course, the film's central premise is not only a lie, it is a Big Lie and pernicious to boot: women are being trafficked for sex all over the world; but the victims are not white US girls from wealthy families, they are overwhelmingly poor third-world ones; and the men who pay for them and thereby enable the trade are not hairy Albanians and fat, leering Arab sheiks but, in large part, white Westerners, some of whom look (I don't doubt) distractingly like Liam Neeson. Next to this, the film's many other lies look almost commonplace -- that violence solves problems rather than creating them; that nobody in the world is to be trusted; that torture is a brisk and effective way of getting vital information (Liam electrocutes an Albanian to death, and shoots the wife -- the wife, mind you! -- of a corrupt French cop in the arm before terrorising her with death threats: on both occasions he gets the information he needs and proceeds heroically on). But the commonplaceness of these lies doesn't make them any less harmful. Horrible, horrible film.