Watch the whole thing HERE!
Posts Tagged ‘Taken’
Watch the whole thing HERE!
Once again Neeson is a father who will do almost anything to protect his family, including using his very special set of skills, but the situation is very different from the ones that saw him traverse the globe as kick-ass dad Bryan Mills.
In “Run All Night” he plays Jimmy Conlon, a hitman for the Irish mob. His boss is his childhood friend—his only friend, in fact—kingpin Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). They have a bond forged by decades of having one another’s backs. The pair are like brothers, until a disagreement between their sons (Boyd Holbrook and Joel Kinnaman) spirals out of control the two best friends become mortal enemies.
Action man du jour Neeson goes mano a mano with Ed Harris and faster than you can say, “Tell everyone to get ready, Jimmy’s coming,” he goes then mano a mano a mano a mano a mano a mano against everyone else in an exhibition of extreme, grunting manliness. Jimmy is a man who has done some very bad things, and continues to, using a very particular set of skills to nullify anyone who gets between him and the safety of his son.
Unlike the “Taken” series, which is content with straight-ahead action, “Run All Night” attempts to deepen the story by examining Jimmy’s conscious, delving into themes of atonement and guilt, topped off with a “I wanted to save you from having the same kind of life I had” subplot. Neeson really wants us to know that Jimmy is a killer but not a bad dad and the emphasis on adding psychological layers to the character drags the movie down in the last forty minutes.
It’s great fun to see Harris and Neeson ooze testosterone and the movie does have some very stylish action scenes plus a relentless hitman (Common) but its efforts to examine Neeson’s Irish guilt aren’t nearly as interesting or well done as the action story.
Liam Neeson does have a “special set of skills” in “A Walk Among the Tombstones” but they’re not really on display in the movie. This isn’t “Taken 4: Armed and Fabulous,” it’s a character study with sadistic serial killers, a precocious kid and plot holes you could drive a truck through. Luckily it also has the jaded but still momentous presence of its star Neeson.
Neeson is Matthew Scudder, a recovering alcoholic who gave up his New York City detective’s badge and the bottle when he was involved in a wild street shoot out left two dead and one wounded. Eight years later he’s working as an unlicensed private investigator—“Sometimes I do favors for people,” he says, “and sometimes they give me gifts.”—when he takes a job to investigate the kidnapping and dismemberment of a drug dealer’s wife. As he gets closer to discovering the people behind the grisly crimes—with the help of T.J. (Brian “Astro” Bradley), a teenage street kid—the case gets gruesome as body parts and clues pile up.
Set against the backdrop of Y2K, “A Walk Among the Tombstones” does little to take advantage of anxious spirit of the times. Instead of playing up on that sense of unease, it is dismissed with the line, “People are afraid of the wrong things.” What’s left is an average police procedural about a world-weary ex-cop chasing down serial killers who do unspeakable things but little more.
The addition of a young character is more of a mystery than the kidnapping story. The grim tone of the rest of the film is lightened somewhat by former “X Factor” contestant Bradley’s performance, but why include him at all? To soften Neeson’s character? To make it family friendly? It accomplishes neither and in fact adds a dreaded “teen sidekick” flavor to a story that takes away from the grit of the serial killer storyline.
Neeson brings his usual action-man gravitas, but tempers it with a little humour and more old school police work than he does in the “Taken” movies. “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is the anti-“Taken.” It pulls its punches and would be better served by showing a little less restraint.
He plays Bill Marks, an aging U.S. federal air marshal safeguarding the 150 passengers (including Julianne Moore, Corey Stoll, Linus Roache and flight attendant Lupita Nyong’o) on an international flight from New York to London.
He’s also a burn-out, a lonely guy with a loaded gun and a propensity to get loaded on booze. The routine flight becomes fraught with danger when he receives text messages from a mysterious source threatening to kill a passenger every twenty minutes unless a ransom of $150 million is deposited into a bank account. When that account is discovered to be in Marks’s name he’s accused of being a hijacker.
“Non-Stop” has more red herrings than a fish and chips shop. Clues are dropped and discarded and the plot is so ludicrous that every now and again someone has to say, “I can explain this,” so the audience has a fighting chance of making some kind of sense of the intrigue. The story is simple but is muddied by outrageous twists. Once I decided to not try and play along—this isn’t “True Detective” where every word and scene counts—I enjoyed watching Neeson in action man mode. He’s better than the movie and he made this movie better simply by showing up.
There is a certain cheesy joy to be found in the image of Neeson floating in zero gravity, grabbing a gun out of the air and getting business done. Nothing can spice up a borderline action movie like the Flying Neeson Shot ™. He has carved a unique action niche for himself and seems to be having fun growling and gunning his way through trashy action movies.
Is “Non-Stop” great art? Nope, but did you really expect it to be? It’s the Neesonator after all.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra makes good use of the airplane’s small spaces, builds some nice scenes of claustrophobic tension and even makes a comment on how news organizations jump to conclusions, using conjecture instead of facts to fill the twenty-four hour wheel but story credibility is not his strong point.
Building tension, however, is. The movie is bookended by two terrific scenes. At the beginning Collet-Serra takes his time with the nicely shot boarding of the airplane sequence. Unease builds as the passengers, one of whom is a terrorist (not a spoiler, watch the trailer), take their seats.
The climax (SPOILER ALERT) is a typical ticking bomb sequence, but it’s an exciting one with cool visuals and the aforementioned Flying Neeson Shot ™.
The supporting cast is serviceable, in underwritten and generic roles. I hope Julianne Moore buys something nice with the pay cheque. She gets the job done, but that part could have been played by anyone. I feel worse for Lupita Nyong’o. She’s an Oscar nominee for “12 Years a Slave,” but here she’s reduced to a Grace Jones impersonator with just a few lines.
Despite a good pace and mounting tension, “Non-Stop is almost undone by superficial characters and a silly story. I say almost because it’s been Neesonized, the action movie equivalent of a sprinkle of fairy dust.
Much of the fun of 2008s Taken was watching beloved thespian Liam Neeson go all Chuck Norris in a dirty little Euro trash thriller.
In the action adventure movie Neeson played a former “preventer” for the US government. A specialist in black ops, he was an undercover agent who contained volatile situations before they got out of control. Retired, he lived in Los Angeles near his estranged seventeen-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). When she is kidnapped by a child slavery ring he has only 96 hours to use his “particular set of skills” to get her back. His rescue mission takes him on a wild rampage through the soft underbelly of Paris. “I’ll tear down the Eiffel Tower if I have to,” he says.
It’s a down-and-dirty little flick, classed up somewhat by the presence of Neeson in the lead role and it became an unexpected lightening-in-a-bottle hit. It also redefined Neeson’s recent career.
At an age when many actors are staring down the barrel of character parts and cameos, the sixty-one year old has made an unlikely U-turn into action movies. “I was a tiny bit embarrassed by it, “ he says of Taken, “but then people started sending me action scripts.”
Arguably best known for his Best Actor Oscar nomination as the charismatic but humble German businessman Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List, the Irish actor has fully embraced his new career path. Vanity Fair even acknowledged the twist in an article called, “Wham! Bam! Thank You, Liam!”
His latest actioner is Non-Stop, a high-flying thriller that takes place on an international crossing from New York to London. Neeson is an air marshal who must prevent a crazed killer from murdering passengers in flight.
The actor’s rebirth as a gun-toting, neck snapping gravel-voiced Stallonite™—aging action star—works not only because he has the physical presence to be taken seriously as a hard man, but also because he has the acting chops to make us believe him as a ruthless and efficient killing machine.
Taken and Taken 2 (which were essentially the same movie) worked not just because the action sequences were out of control, but because audiences had some empathy for Neeson’s character as he kicked butt across Europe. It was a personal mission; he was trying to get his daughter back.
Action movies like Wrath of the Titans, The Grey and Unknown may not burnish Neeson’s rep as a great thespian, but when asked why he keeps making them, he has a solid reason: “Because they’re dumb enough to offer them to me!”
In Taken, the new action adventure movie from Transporter scribe Luc Besson, Liam Neeson plays Brian Mills a former “preventer” for the US government. A specialist in black ops, he was an undercover agent who contained volatile situations before they got out of control. Now retired, he lives in Los Angeles to be near his estranged seventeen-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). When she is kidnapped by an Albanian child slavery ring—bad guys so tough “even the Russian mob steers clear”—he has only 96 hours to use his “particular set of skills” to get her back. His rescue mission takes him on a wild rampage through the soft underbelly of Paris. “I’ll tear down the Eiffel Tower if I have to,” he says.
After a slow start devoted to some perfunctory character development
Taken kicks into high gear in about its twentieth minute. The action—and the movie for all intents and purposes—starts as daughter Kim is being kidnapped from her luxury Parisian apartment. It’s a terrifically tense scene as the bad guys break in and trash the place while Kim describes what’s happening to her father via cell phone. It’s this sequence that establishes Mills as someone to be dealt with, not just a sulky retiree who pines for his daughter’s affection. From this point on he’s James Bond with road rage or Jason Bourne without the memory loss. Either way he’s the best action hero to come along in some time.
For the remainder of its 94 minute running time Taken generally follows the long established action movie rule of having something or someone blow up or get shot every ten minutes. Neeson, who will soon be seen on-screen playing Abraham Lincoln in the decidedly non-action film, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, is a powerful presence. He’s a good enough actor to make you believe the sentimental stuff about his daughter and physical enough for the action scenes to work. He’s a killing machine, ruthless and efficient, and as a scene near the end of the film demonstrates, probably the most bad ass dinner guest ever.
Some may quibble with Taken’s xenophobia—Russians are ruthless, Muslims are the bad guys, the French are corrupt—which makes episodes of 24 seem warm and fuzzy by comparison, but it really is just a cartoon where good—that’s Neeson—goes against evil—that’s everybody else. Still others may nitpick on the film’s lack of a moral compass. Neeson bludgeons everyone and anyone who gets in his way. On that score it really is just like an episode of Father Knows Best, if Fred McMurray was a trained killer whose daughter had been snatched. It’s a revenge flick where the violence is personal, not for the general good.
Despite some logic gaps and some crazy continuity errors Taken succeeds because of the performance of Liam Neeson and the action, which outweighs the occasionally cheesy situations and dialogue.
A couple of years ago, Liam Neeson reintroduced North American audiences to the joys of the Euro-trashy-thriller. In Taken he played a retired undercover agent who rips Paris apart searching for his kidnapped daughter. “I’ll tear down the Eiffel Tower if I have to,” he said.
The French tourist attraction was left standing, but he laid waste to the rest of the city in the movie’s wild action scenes.
Neeson is back this weekend in Unknown, another Euro-thriller that sees him cut a swath through Berlin while trying to get to the bottom of a deadly mystery involving identity theft, shadowy assassins and, of course, European carnage.
Euro-thrillers are characterized not just by their exotic locations, beautiful stars and international intrigue but by an attitude. They are about glamour, style and over-the-top stories.
A catchy title is also important. The 1967 Euro-heist flick 28 Minutes for 3 Million Dollars wasn’t much of a movie, but the name was a grabber. Ditto Agent for H.AR.M., an outlandish Eurospy movie with a bad guy who bears an uncanny resemblance to Pee Wee Herman. More fun is an Italian sci-fi comedy caper called Kiss the Girls and Make them Die starring Mike Connors (later famous as detective Mannix on TV) in a James Bond rip-off that’s almost as good as the real thing.
Then, what’s a great Euro movie without a cool score? Movies like 1967’s spy parody Kiss Kiss… Bang Bang featured a playful, loungetastic Bruno Nicolai score that sets the scene perfectly, and Ann Margaret’s songs in Appointment in Beirut can only be described as kitschy-cool.
The next ingredient is a wild premise. It doesn’t get much stranger than Bandaged, a German film about a deranged man who transplants the face of his late wife on his deformed daughter. Or how about LSD Inferno? In it the bad guy—an inventively named Mister X—wants to dose everyone in the world with acid.
After that, all that’s needed is a great villain—like Adolfo Celi and his criminal organisation T.H.A.N.A.T.O.S. in OK Connery—and some gadgets—like Mission Bloody Mary’s rooms that double as microwave ovens. Then top with hot leads like Matchless’s Patrick O’Neal, who plays a secret agent who can turn invisible or Daniela Bianchi, the former Miss Rome who va-va-voomed her way through 15 films, including From Russia with Love, and you get a unique and fun night at the movies.