Taken (2008)


I Told You So!: The Movie

After the last three movies, I didn’t feel like I needed to clean my brain with a good movie, or a meaningful movie.  I needed to clean my brain with an awesome movie.  I had originally seen today’s movie in the theaters, knowing nothing about it and expecting nothing out of it.  Later, when it came out on DVD, I bought that shit post haste.  I’ve seen it a few times since then, but I have not reviewed it yet.  And I had a hankering for this movie for a little while now so I figured now was the best time to sate my need for it, and knock a review out while I’m at it.  This movie is Taken, written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, directed by Pierre Morel, and starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Xander Berkeley, Nicolas Giraud, Arben Bajraktaraj, Gerard Watkins, Olivier Rabourdin, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Katie Cassidy, and Holly Valance.

Retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is trying to build a better relationship with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), but it’s made into an uphill battle by her bitch ass mom, Lenore (Famke Janssen), and her rich, one-upping stepfather Stuart (Xander Berkeley).  Knowing that Kim wants to be a singer, he gets her a karaoke machine for her birthday, and tries to get her in with pop singer Sheerah (Holly Valance) while on a job with his former colleague Sam (Leland Orser), but she shuts him down.  Well, she does until Bryan saves her life with extreme prejudice from a knife-wielding assailant.  She responds by offering to pay for a singing coach for Kim and get her in touch with an agent.  Bryan goes to lunch to present Kim with this good news, but Kim and Lenore confront Bryan with Kim’s desire to go to Paris with her friend, Amanda (Katie Cassidy), to look at some museums.  Bryan’s hesitant, knowing what kinds of dangers face young girls on their own overseas, but they lay the guilt trip on him so thick that he relents and allows her to go, as long as she keeps him up to speed with what’s happening.  When she gets to France, she meets a nice boy named Peter (Nicolas Giraud) who invites her and Amanda to a party, but changes his mind and tells the Albanian Mafia to come and abduct them and turn them into prostitutes.  Kim watches it go down from a window while talking to her dad, and he leads her through the situation, but tells her she will be taken.  But Bryan has a particular set of skills that means a lot of people are going to get injured until he finds his daughter.

This movie is the tits.  The big fat floppy tits!  This movie might not be the smartest movie I’ve ever watched, but it would arguably be one of the most awesome.  The story of the movie is nothing special, but it’s still very satisfying.  The story is a pretty simple situation of someone being abducted and someone going to rescue her, with a little bit of the classic coming out of retirement story in there.  I found some of the dialogue in the movie blunt and unimpressive, like the scene at the barbecue and the scene where Bryan is playing poker with his former colleagues.  These scenes are very obvious exposition scenes, with them saying things along the lines of, “Remember that time when we were in the CIA and you were really good and I’d hate to be someone that kidnapped your daughter.  Remember that, buddy?”  Exposition can be painful to listen to, especially when it’s largely unnecessary because it happens right before the scene of Bryan laying a cold ass-whooping on the guy with the knife that tries to Selena that Sheerah lady.  That’s all I needed to decide this guy was a badass with skills.  That AND the fact that he wraps presents like a champ.  And I felt the biggest piece of dialogue was never used in the movie.  After Lenore had been such a dirty bitch to Bryan the whole movie and acted like he was being an asshole for thinking it was too dangerous for Kim to go to Paris without him, Bryan completely neglected to lay a nice, thick “I told you so” onto the lot of them when he was totally right about the whole thing.  Granted, he would’ve just been an asshole if she had gone and nothing had happened, but he was right, and I would’ve punched her bitch ass vagina clean off!  I feel the same way about the part where Kim is under the bed and he tells her she’s going to be taken.  At first, the bad guys seemed completely unaware that she was there.  I figured that she’d be pretty pissed if they left without her and he had seemed so quickly resigned to the fact that she’d be taken.  It would’ve been a fairly lackluster movie if that had happened though.  If you want some examples of good dialogue, it immediately follows that, when Bryan talks to the kidnapper Marco on the phone.  That speech goes down as one of the most badass speeches ever as Bryan tells Marco basically, “I’m a badass, you don’t want to fuck with me, and I’ll show you why if you don’t let her go.  …But don’t let her go, because the movie would be really short and not awesome if you don’t make me show off my badassness.”   At that point, we had already learned enough to think, “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into!”  The speech he gives when he does find Marco is pretty good as well.

There was really nothing left to be desired from the action in this movie.  I found it all very satisfying.  They had great gun fights, hardcore hand-to-hand combat, and even some cool car chases.  I’ve always liked the form of fighting that they use in this movie.  It reminds me of the Bourne movies.  I’m not sure if it’s technically Krav Maga, but it looked like it.  It’s just a no nonsense, no frills type of fighting that makes your opponent unable to be in your way anymore.  It comes down to a lot of neck/back breaking and throat punching, and all of it’s good times for me.  ::SPOILER ALERT::  At the end of the movie, he has to fight this skinny, douchey-looking guard to a sheik.  It bummed me out because he was able to hold his own against Bryan who had, up to this point, not met anyone he couldn’t destroy in a couple of moves.  Though I didn’t like seeing my man challenged by this guy, it made sense for him to have a challenging fight at the end of the movie, and the ass-whipping he laid upon him was very satisfying.  I was also surprised at how his daughter reacted to him shooting the sheik because she seemed shocked by it, whereas I would’ve yelled, “Dad!  You is the fuckin’ tits!”  And, at the very end of the movie, I was surprised to see Lenore thanking Bryan for saving their daughter.  With how much of a bitch she was through the rest of the movie, I would’ve figured she’d say, “Oh what?  You could only save ONE of them?  This is so typical, Bryan!”  I know the last two don’t really fit with the action paragraph, but I wanted to keep my spoilers together.  ::END SPOILERS::   The car chases were pretty standard stuff, and car chases have never really held a lot of interest for me.  What I did like from the first one was how the car ran full speed into a bulldozer’s blade, cutting halfway into the top of the car like it was butter.

All of the performances in this movie really worked as well.  There wasn’t a point in the movie where Liam Neeson really had to get emotional, but that actually works as a good thing for this movie.  We already know he can act; he doesn’t need to show off.  But having his emotions so under control under circumstances where most people would be freaking out makes him that much more of a badass.  My favorite bit of badassness was when he shot a guy’s wife out of nowhere.  LIKE A BOSS!  You’ll know it when you see it, but it was so stone cold badass that I would’ve offered my anal virginity to the guy as a sacrifice.  Maggie Grace had to do a lot of damsel in distress work in the movie.  I couldn’t decide if her character was believable or not because 17-year-old girls only like U2 because they want to seem smart and they haven’t found better music yet.  And people that like U2 don’t also like pop stars like this Sheerah.  I definitely hate-fucked the shit out of Famke Janssen’s character in this movie, but that was what she was going for.  I know some divorced people are like that, but you bitches can at least act like you’re being civil in front of your kid at her birthday party.  And yes, I blame her completely.  I thought Arben Bajraktaraj was cool as the short-lived character Marko, but mainly just because I was really convinced by him as he was being tortured.  In no small part due to the veins in his neck looking like they were going to explode.  And I thought Leland Orser was cool, but mainly because every time I see him I think of him either crying because he fucked a girl to death with a sword dildo in Seven, or crying because there was an alien in him in Alien: Resurrection.

Taken is one of the best movies to just shut your brain off and enjoy.  It’s not a dumb movie, per se, but the story is pretty basic and the dialogue is either nothing special or wicked awesome.  Liam Neeson and the action scenes make this movie a fantastic action flick.  This movie is total fun times that should be enjoyed by anyone.  And you should go and enjoy it right now.  I have it on DVD, I SHOULD have it on BluRay, and you should have it in some form or another.  Taken gets “I have a particular set of skills” out of “Now’s not the time for dick measuring, Stuart!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

From Paris with Love (2010)


Wax On, Wax Off

Today’s movie was a total whim-watch. I saw it on Netflix streaming and I said “…Yeah, I think I’ll do that.” I remember it coming out and thought “Meh”, but that was before I was an Indie Movie Reviewer. With my current “job” title, I felt this was a good enough excuse. And that is the very short, fairly pointless story behind my decision to watch From Paris with Love, written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak, directed by Pierre Morel, and starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, John Travolta, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden and Amber Rose Revah.

James Reese (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is a personal aide to a U.S. Ambassador in France, but he has aspirations to get a promotion in his side job; to go from low-ranking CIA operative to high-ranking CIA operative. He’s also engaged to a French girl named Caroline (Kasia Smutniak). He gets the promotion opportunity in the form of a temporary partner by the name of Charlie Wax (John Travolta). James is a bit of a by the books kind of guy, but Charlie likes killing people. They start in on a drug ring in France and that leads them into a plot to unleash a suicide bomber in a meeting that Reese’s boss, Ambassador Bennington (Richard Durden), will be at. And then they must stop it.

It didn’t take very long to get through the story of this movie, mainly because it’s not super plot heavy. It’s pretty much just a big dumb action movie, but it also seems to try to use the fact that they cast John Travolta in it to try to hardcore swagger jack Quentin Tarantino. And they try to do that a pretty good amount, so much so that I wonder how they got away with it. I assume Travolta is why they get away with it, but it could also be because they did a piss poor job of it and it flew under the radar. I had heard Travolta’s character compared to his performance in Pulp Fiction, and there are similarities, but it’s more like Vincent hopped up on Red Bull through the entire movie. They try to emulate Tarantino’s dialogue style, but you can only talk about things that have nothing to do with the movie if it’s well-written and interesting. No one told them this. They did totally throw a couple of “Royal with Cheese” references in the movie, which I would normally think was funny that they referenced another of an actor’s really famous performances, but when I had already been thinking that they were trying to rip off Tarantino, that joke only served to cement it. The rest of the story was no more interesting than the dialogue. It’s pretty simple and the only surprise they go for I thought in about the first 10 minutes of the movie. It happened in a similar way as I predicted the end of The Village when I leaned over to my friend in the very first scene of the movie and said ::DIFFERENT MOVIE SPOILER ALERT:: “I bet it’s going to turn out to be 1998 outside of the village”, and then I was right.::END SPOILER:: I thought that as a joke! Why would you actually make it a plot point?! Well, that’s how I did it here too. I thought it was too obvious to happen, but it did. And, because I like to, let’s talk things that didn’t make sense to me. There was a huge plot point in this movie about Rhys-Meyers trying to charge his phone. After it first died from low battery, he took the battery out, rubbed it against his sleeve, and tried it again. Do you think this shit charges from static electricity?! You’d have to do it a lot longer than that! Also, the last big speech to talk the suicide bomber out of getting in on all those sweet, sweet virgins in heaven did not work for me at all. The dialogue seemed rushed and crappy/sappy, but the actual end of that scene did catch me off guard. It was not as I expected at all.

There were only about 3 notable performances in this movie altogether: Rhys-Meyers, Travolta, and maybe a little Smutniak. All of them pretty mediocre. Rhys-Meyers never really did anything to make me pay attention to him. He had a little love story going on, a little trial and tribulations with love and work, a little bit of rising to the call when you’re needed, a little bit of reaching a breaking point with something, but none of which really worked for me. Travolta’s performance was mediocre, but in a different way. There were parts of this movie where Travolta was a badass, usually around the fighting and shooting scenes. He worked in these scenes. But then the character would just get on my nerves in the rest of the scenes. And when you’re half good, half bad, you come out just mediocre. Speaking of which, Kasia Smutniak. Her character was important to the story, but rarely featured in person. She shows up in the beginning as the girlfriend, pops up briefly in the middle, then is a big part in the end. The rest of the movie she’s just on the phone or being talked about. I found her character arc to be fairly predictable and I wasn’t interested.

The only real reason I can think of to watch this movie is the action scenes. They’re mostly well done. There are a couple of good shootout scenes, a couple good fist fights, and at least one decent car chase. The best of them was probably the fist fight where Travolta single-handedly whoops up 8 dudes with melee weapons. That scene was pretty badass. I could’ve used some more good action, but the scenes that were there were well done.

This is a thoroughly okay, perhaps forgettable, movie. The story of the movie is a bit straight forward, and dialogue either attempts to rip off Quentin Tarantino or just straight out sucks, but it’s got some solid action that might make the movie good enough to look at. I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone, but it is available on Netflix streaming, so if you’ve got nothing better to do and just wanna see some punch face and shoot things, you could do worse. From Paris with Love gets “Shoot the fucker” out of “Did you save the world again, baby”.

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