Missing daughter? Check. Redemptive hunt? Yep. Unconscientious torture? Of course. In Taken, Liam Neeson dons his best Jack Bauer suit as a retired government operative who’s forced to tap into his old special skills when his beloved teenager is abducted. Neeson scores huge badass points for his convincing turn as steely uber-agent Bryan Mills, who’s bound to draw comparisons to 24’s lead. While equally ruthless and efficient, Mills exhibits a coolness and calmness that nicely contrast the frenetic, brutal action.
Writer/producer Luc Besson, an expert at infusing sentimentality into his stories (The Professional, Unleashed), separates Mills from Bond and Bourne by establishing a sensitive side in his protagonist, but this is only most evident in the first act because the rest of Taken is more like director Pierre Morel’s sole previous effort, the overlooked District B13 that was action-heavy but pathos-light. Unhindered by its PG-13 rating, Besson’s latest fades emotionally as it jacks up the violence, but it’s a thrilling cinematic cocktail that even 007 would order Taken, not stirred.