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  • What could be a skillful but ordinary action flick gets a surprising emotional heft from the presence of Liam Neeson as the hero. Bryan Mills (Neeson) has given up his career as a spy to form a relationship with his estranged teenage daughter--but when, on a trip to Paris, she's kidnapped by slavers, Mills uses all his connections and skills to turn the city of lights upside down and rescue her. Like most of the movies that writer/producer Luc Besson has a hand in (such as La Femme Nikita, The Transporter, Unleashed, and many other French action movies), Taken drips with lurid violence (a bit toned-down to get a PG-13 rating, but there's still plenty of it), deranged sentimentality, and stereotypes of all kinds. But this doesn't stop his movies from being effective thrill-rides, and Taken is no exception. Taken pays just enough attention to the illusion of procedure--making it seem like Mills knows all the right steps to track down his daughter--that the movie cheerfully seduces your suspension of disbelief, despite many plot holes and scenes where Mills doesn't get scratched despite bullets flying in all directions or pretends to be a French policeman despite not speaking French or even adopting a French accent. What holds it all together is Neeson; his gravitas and emotional availability make his character--the usual action fantasy of impossible competence and righteous fury--somehow seem real and relatable. --Bret Fetzer

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