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Critic gets ‘taken’ for a thrilling ride

It seems as if the producers of the new thriller “Taken” have stolen a page from the playbook of the hit television series “24.”

In a role similar to that of Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer, Liam Neeson portrays Brian Mills; a government agent who refuses to play by the rules when it means getting the results he needs. Often resorting to acts of torture to acquire valuable information from their enemies, both Bauer and Mills spend their suspense-filled minutes tracking down terrorists that make threats against American citizens. Even more surprising is the fact both men have a teenage daughter named Kim who can’t seem to keep from being kidnapped.

Unlike Bauer, Mills is a recently retired agent. His choice to retire comes off the heels of wanting to spend more time with his recently turned 17-year-old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who now lives with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen). However, his plan is interrupted when Kim urges him to let her go on a trip to Paris. As he reluctantly agrees, he cautions her out of his past job awareness and fatherly care. The advice didn’t seem to work. Once Kim and her friend reach their destination, they immediately become part of a plot by Albanian terrorists to be kidnapped for slave trafficking. Now, the only person capable of finding them is the last person Kim talked to: her father.

As his journey takes him back into the familiar world of crime and espionage, Mills becomes the one-man army who’s fully capable of carrying an otherwise mindless action story. Luckily, the character is portrayed by an actor who can make any character seem like they came straight from reality. With Liam Neeson as the driving force of the film, it’s easy to overlook the film’s many problems.

Like one of the few poor episodes of “24,” the uninspired moments of “Taken” feature imperfect writing skills. It happens when a logical direction or common sense is sacrificed for a quick development of the plot. For instance, when Mills is chasing a suspect through the streets of Paris, causing massive car pile-ups, not a single policeman comes to arrest him. This simple aversion may have worked had Mills not hijacked a car from a team of security guards in the beginning of the scene.

As long as you’re willing to suspend a large amount of disbelief, “Taken” is a non-stop thrill ride that succeeds almost entirely at the hands of its powerful lead actor. While there are moments of Neeson’s performance that would make Jack Bauer proud, this is one film that will have trouble holding up on repeat viewings.

Letter Grade: B-

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language

Runtime: 93 min.

Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen

Directed by Pierre Morel

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