Saturday, June 20, 2009
movie critic's corner
A few nights ago my wife and I rented the movie 'Taken'. I was really looking forward to viewing this film seeing that I am a HUGE fan of 'revenge' movies.
For those of you who are not familiar with this film, let me lay out the basic plot: Liam Neeson (the father figure), reluctantly allows his 17 year-old daughter to travel around Europe with her 19 year-old female friend. Neeson plays a former government operative who has seen too much in his time to feel easy about his daughter's summer plans. Upon her arrival to Paris, such said daughter and friend are kidnapped by unseen assailants, who are involved with trafficking, which puts into motion a well-equipped, knowledgeable yet vengeful father who then takes justice into his own hands.
Now the basic plot of this film had a sense of 'realism' to it. I say this because kidnappings REALLY happen... Human trafficking REALLY happens... and heroic acts to stop these tragedies REALLY happen... With this being said, my expectations were leaning toward a 'realistic' story line. That expectation was sadly unfulfilled due to the 'fantasy' elements that were thrown into the film.
Let me expand on my point by pointing out two very similar, yet different movies... Similar because they are both 'revenge' movies, but different due to 'realism' vs. 'fantasy'.
Movie #1: "Man On Fire" - This movie leans towards 'realism' based on these factors: It was shot in Mexico City, a real place. The film also let you feel, very clearly, that it was taking place in present day. The story line (like 'Taken') includes a former agent (Denzel Washington) who's past and mental scars are unclear, a kidnapping, parents feeling real pain, corrupt law enforcement and a seemingly impossible mission. Washington's character bleeds, hurts, fails, emits emotion from all ends of the 'emotion spectrum'... he is not invincible and ultimately, he does NOT complete ALL aspects of what he sets out to do, but gets done what he needs to get done... by any means possible. Even at his own demise. It made me feel like this story line could actually happen.
Movie #2: "Payback" - This movie leans towards 'fantasy'. Like the previous two films mentioned above, the main character (Mel Gibson) is motivated by 'something' to get 'what's his'. The films 'Taken' and 'Man On Fire' use human motivation which triggers a more emotional pull on the audience. 'Payback' uses a large sum of money as motivation. Also, the city that the film takes place in is ambiguous, Gibson's character cheats death multiple times and the audience can't relate to the characters because they are written in to stereotypes (ie: mobsters, hookers, assassins, etc.)
Now back to 'Taken'. The plot elements were 'real-life' and emotionally tugging much like 'Man On Fire', but Neeson's character was all fantasy. He didn't bleed, didn't feel pain, cheated death... all the fantastic qualities you would find in 'Payback'.
Saying all this leaves me to conclude that I wish the director would have chosen one or the other. Fantasy or Realism. Not both. The two elements didn't get along too well in my opinion.
I give this film a 6 out of 10. A great story line with mediocre acting at best. Rent it. Don't buy it.