So who’s seen the film Taken, with Liam Neeson? I thought it was incredible – but by no means in a good way. I was incredulous at how offensive it was, on so many levels.
Kudos for achieving such a multi-faceted festival of wrong I suppose. It’s like an onion; every time you peel back a layer of awfulness you reveal another, and it makes your eyes water.
Starting with the entry-level stupid crap there’s the script, full of barely literate exposition, half-baked old clichés like the one-sided phone conversation (‘what’s that?’ ‘…’ ‘Lunch? Tomorrow?’ ‘…’ ‘I know the place’) and preposterous clunkers – convenient non-specific job CIA mate knowing what someone’s name is and where they came from upon hearing a brief tape of them talking in foreign, Liam convincing a bunch of bad guys that he’s the chief of police in Paris (or some balls) without them asking why he’s not speaking French.
Still on a superficial level – but more personal to me, because I love them so much – is how desperate Taken is to be a Jason Bourne film. Neeson climbs a euro wall in a scene that compares shamefully with Matt Damon’s Embassy descent in The Bourne Identity, he jumps off a bridge on to a boat, hurting his ankle, a la The Bourne Supremacy and on and on. But where Paul Greengrass’s shaky cam builds tension and makes you feel edgy whilst keeping you in touch with tight little action developments, the shaky stuff in Taken queasily masks a total lack of invention, and where Jason Bourne appears preternaturally skilled at hand-to-hand combat, here it just seems that it’s very very easy to knock men unconscious.
Worse than that, Taken attempts to appropriate Bourne’s action template whilst straying a long way from the ethics of those films.
A LONG way.
The Bourne trilogy is about power, corruption and the morals of assassination. The Bourne Ultimatum throws in a deft-and-harsh critique of American foreign policy along with the thrill ride.
Taken says foreigners are a nightmare and women are worse.
The deluded done-wrong divorcee dad fantasy begins with Liam’s 17 year old daughter planning a trip to Europe. ‘NOOOOOOO!’ Liam’s racism muscle screams, and sure enough she gets abducted pretty much on the tarmac. From there on we learn that the French can’t be trusted, Europe has a huge influx of swarthy criminals pouring in from the Eastern Bloc, but if you look deep enough you can trace all this evil to Arabs. Curvy-blade-wielding, kohl-eyed, virgin-defiling Arabs. The boss reclines on his bed in a silky dressing gown, like a Muslim Jabba The Hutt, but his character is significantly less well-rounded. This is a racist cartoon to trump anything from the early days of Disney.
Or The Phantom Menace, another stinking pustule on Liam Neeson’s resume. He probably calls it a ‘work summary’ though – nothing as johnny-foreigny sounding as resume, or curriculum vitae.
And sexist? Yikes. Not only are there no fully-fleshed out grown-up women in this film, there is no possibility of them in this universe – the closest you get is the French chief-of-something’s wife. She’s a stay-at-home-and-cook-the-dinner know-nothing, and Liam shoots her.
No, women here are children, bitches or whores.
Famke Janssen, as the mother of Neeson’s child, is a pantomime villain, apparently justifying his self-pity and emotional illiteracy. And she approves of the Europe trip. NOOOOOOO! It’s telling that her new partner, the step dad, is quite a good bloke. No, the real evil lies with women. And Arabs obviously.
The daughter’s friend is a slag, so she dies – horror movie rules – all the other women in the film are jacked-up hookers, and the camera is hypocritically censorious and turned-on by this. They’re all slaves, and the only escape offered is to become a pop star – like Holly Valance for goodness’ sake. Hmmm, pop stardom – the perfect escape from infantilised sexualisation. Ask Britney.
And the daughter – shudder – the daughter. She flaps around like an idiot puppy screaming Daddy Daddy. She’s supposed to be seventeen remember. Then she gets her twisted makeover, whereupon she’s another glassy-eyed sex slave, commanding the highest price of all because she’s a virgin. It’s the perviest of soft porn, masquerading as moral outrage, and I for one could not finish my maltesers.
Then Liam kills everyone and brings her back to America and it’s all alright.
Except I never get those two hours back.
It’s like a Father 4 Justice – remember them? – ate too much cheese and fell asleep on top of Tower Bridge, and someone filmed his fevered dreams.
Why a good-when-he-can-be-bothered actor like Liam Neeson waded into this nightmare I don’t know – I hope it doesn’t represent an important social message for him. Maybe it was the opportunity to get his hair dyed an unconvincing rich chocolatey brown.
See? The Taken onion is a gift that just keeps on giving. Awfulness of this magnitude is inspiring. You should see it.