Liam Neeson opens a can of whoop-ass on sex traffickers in the riveting action-thriller “Taken”. Neeson stars as retired CIA operative Bryan Mills. He moves to Los Angeles to be near his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), who lives with her mother (Famke Janssen) and wealthy stepfather. Kim wants to spend the summer before her senior year in Paris with a friend. Her father’s against sending the girls abroad alone, but is led to believe they will be staying with adults. He reluctantly agrees, on the condition that Kim calls him the second she’s landed and every night during their stay. Every parent’s worse nightmare is realized when Kim calls her father open their arrival at the Paris apartment. There are no parents, the girls’ trip was a mere set-up to follow U2 around Europe, and there’s a knock at the door. Kim screams, terrified, men are in the apartment. They have grabbed her best friend and are coming for her. Bryan tells her not to fight them. He knows they will hurt her if she struggles. But he asks her to describe what she sees, anything to identify them. They have her…a mysterious voice picks up the phone. Brian, in a deadly calm manner, asks the foreign voice to let her go, or he will kill everyone is his way to find the kidnapper. The strange voice beckons him to try. And that is a mistake to taunt an elite CIA assassin.

Taken is an uncompromising, visceral film. It delves into the horrifying world of female kidnapping and sex slavery. French director/writer Luc Besson pens the script and produces the film. His vision is not only to deliver a spectacularly brutal action film, but to show an otherwise ignorant populace the heinous crimes of the illegal sex trade. Taken grabs you from the opening and never relents. Bryan is unstoppable in his quest for his daughter. His journey takes him to Paris where he uncovers a world of astonishing criminality. But while the bad guys are despicable, the vengeance he unleashes on them is like the hammer of god. They get their comeuppance from a father who will not stop until he finds his precious daughter.

Liam Neeson, known for his excellence as a dramatic actor, proves he has the chops to be the toughest action hero. His character is so lethal, and yet so understated, the performance shows how truly great Neeson is. Because there is no karate, no machine guns, no big explosions, just a death dealer exacting revenge in a cold-blooded way. And he is not superhuman. Mills gets more hurt, bloodier, the closer he gets to the truth of his daughter’s kidnapping.

Taken is an extremely violent and sexually explicit film. But it is not derogatory or overblown in any way. Its mere subject matter is a callous truth that the world chooses to ignore. I applaud Luc Besson for making, essentially, an action film expose about sex slavery. I have no doubt that people will leave this movie appalled and enlightened about this subject matter. In a lesser actor’s hands, the powerful impact of the subject matter would not have been so ably delivered. Liam Neeson, the man who played Oscar Schindler and Alfred Kinsey, truly has the skill to play any character.

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