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Originally published January 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 29, 2009 at 4:07 PM

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Movie review

"Taken": Liam Neeson is no Bruce Willis, dude

"Taken," a violent and predictable thriller, transforms Liam Neeson, not particularly convincingly, into an action star, playing a father who races to Paris to find his kidnapped daughter (Maggie Grace).

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1.5 stars

"Taken," with Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Katie Cassidy, Holly Valance, Famke Janssen. Directed by Pierre Morel, from a screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. 94 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language. Several theaters.

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Liam Neeson, I have to say, wouldn't have ranked high on my list of badass dudes: He's a real actor, capable of the kind of nuance that action movies don't usually require, and he's not, shall we say, in the first blush of his youth. Nonetheless, Pierre Morel's "Taken" transforms Neeson, not particularly convincingly, into an action star. He beats up entire rooms full of younger and more elaborately armed opponents, shoots an innocent person just to make a point, scowls in a very Harrison Ford-ish way, and even does his manly best to outrun a car.

And yet, his best moment is a tiny flash near the end, when his character, Brian, hugs his former wife (Famke Janssen). Something happens to his face — it seems to relax in a way we haven't seen it before, just for a second — and we see this couple's entire history: He once loved her very much, and there's still a tiny glimmer that remains. It's a moment more memorable than any stunt in this movie; it's vivid and real, in a way that "Taken" isn't.

In a nutshell, "Taken" plays like an elaborate warning to not let your teenage daughter go to Europe unaccompanied. Brian's daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), does just that, and almost immediately gets kidnapped to be sold as a sex slave. Brian, a former spy, races to Paris to find her, thus kicking off the series of car chases, jittery fight scenes and frantic conversations that make up most of the movie's running time.

There's one good line — "Kill him quietly. I have guests," purrs a villain — and a few chase scenes that are undeniably exciting, but mostly it's a grim, violent and predictable tale of a young girl in unthinkable distress. (The most shocking thing about it? The MPAA, in its infinite wisdom, rated "Taken" PG-13 rather than the automatic R it should have gotten.)

Toward the end, Neeson's superhero character at least has the decency to limp; so, unfortunately, does this movie.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725

or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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