Film Friday: ‘Taken’ & ‘New in Town’

by W. Andrew Powell

Liam Neeson is kicking butts and taking names in Taken

Liam Neeson is kicking butts and taking names in Taken

Veteran actor and sometimes tough-guy Liam Neeson takes on a different role this week as a former military man leaping into a fight with European criminals who have abducted his daughter in the film, Taken. Also out this week, but far less praiseworthy, Renée Zellweger stars in the romantic comedy New in Town, while Elizabeth Banks plays a woman with evil intentions in The Uninvited.

One of the film world’s greatest actors slums it this week with an action-thriller about an ex-CIA agent hunting for his kidnapped daughter.

Written and produced by one of my favorite filmmakers, Luc Besson, Taken is the recognizable result of ripping off the Hollywood thriller, but with a slightly international approach.

Neeson plays Bryan, a divorcee trying to reconnect with his daughter in the face of a new step-father who can give Kim, played by Maggie Grace, everything Bryan can’t. With the opportunity for Kim to vacation with a friend in Paris, Bryan has his doubts that a teenager should be traveling on her own, but of course, she is allowed to go anyway… and is immediately “taken” by a group of Albanian slave traders.

Bryan leaps into action, calling on the help of his CIA friends and contacts to rip through Paris on a hunt for his daughter, while getting some vengeance along the way.

Taken is, of course, an over-the-top action story where Bryan reeks havoc at every turn, sniffs out even the most elusive of random clues, and still gets the job done without being arrested. It’s far fetched, and more than a little emotionally loaded, but Neeson is a rock as the film’s lead, and turns even the most stilted dialogue into cold, hard, believable wisdom.

Although I had issues with the opening scenes, and Besson’s story, which bears a lot of resemblance to some of his other work, Taken is a good, old-fashioned movie about retribution and vengeance. It’s bloody, a bit gritty, and certainly dark, but all in the right measure.

New in Town
What happens when a high-paid, big shot business woman has to leave Miami and travel to the back woods of America? Another bland romantic comedy.

Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. star in this silly, soppy rom-com, with Connick playing Ted, your average union boss trying to protect his company from closure by Zellweger’s tough-as-nails Lucy.

Of course, for every ten films like this, there are only one or two good ones, and based on critical reaction, and The GATE’s own Christine Estima, New in Town is entirely skippable.

“Because every development in New in Town is so predictable, so reminiscent of other, better romantic comedies, it actually seems longer than it is,” wrote Joe Leydon of Variety.

The Uninvited
The other derivative film coming out this week is the Americanized version of the Korean horror film, The Uninvited.

Ever since the success of The Ring, a remake of a Japanese film, North American filmmakers have repeatedly capitalized on the runaway success of this import market. Whether the films have been good, or not, doesn’t even seem to matter since most of these remakes also earn wads of cash thanks to a built-in teen audience who just want to be a little scared. (Look no further than the ridiculous Shutter for proof of that, which was made for around $8 million, and took in more than $43 million at the box office.)

In The Uninvited, Emily Brown plays Anna, a young woman trying to deal with the death of her mother, as a new woman makes moves on her father. Elizabeth Banks plays the new, manipulative woman with evil in her heart.

My issues with the genre aside, The Uninvited is getting par-for-the-course reviews, with Edward Douglas of calling it “too derivative and laden with plot twists to be effective, adding, “it’s hard to enjoy this cluttered remake knowing how much better the original movie is.”

Perhaps we’ll someday get an Asian-inspired horror remake worth seeing, but as long as audiences back this kind of junk filmmaking, nothing is going to change any time soon.

New releases coming soon…

February 6:
He’s Just Not That Into You
The Pink Panther 2

February 13:
Friday the 13th
Confessions of a Shopaholic

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