Neeson shows action chops in ‘Taken’

Three self-evident truths emerge from “Taken,” the lean and brutal thriller about why one should NEVER kidnap a retired secret agent’s daughter.

Liam Neeson could have had a career as an action star, had he been willing to sell out.

Secondly, when it comes to action pictures, there are movies that come out under the aegis of Luc Besson (“The Professional,” “La Femme Nikita,” “The Transporter”), and there’s everybody else.

And lastly, if we’re letting CIA agents this ruthless and tough “retire,” then plainly government pensions are entirely too generous.

“Taken” is about a divorced, doting dad who has quit his job with “The Agency” to be closer to his teenage daughter (Maggie Grace). Dad doesn’t just dote. He sticks his nose right in Miss Kim’s business.

Against his better judgment, he lets the kid, whose mom (Famke Janssen) has re-married and married money, take off for Paris. Sure enough, bad things happen to naive teenage girls abroad.

The kidnapping itself is a drum-tight piece of writing and a brilliant bit of stagecraft. She’s on the phone with Dad. Men come into another room and grab her friend. He has just enough time to prepare her, to instruct her on the basics — “Focus,” “Yell out descriptions of the men.”

The exclamation point to the scene is Neeson, in a father’s righteous, measured fury, telling the kidnappers about his “very particular skills,” and how they should let her go and just walk away. They don’t. (They never do.) Bad move.

Cinematographer-turned-director Pierre Morel, working from a Besson story (with the master looking over his shoulder during editing, no doubt) transforms the big, burly Irishman into a karate-chopping, derriere-kicking bloodhound, calling on old friends, using his “particular skills” to hunt down the kid and those who napped her.

Some moments play as seriously worn out.

But the chases, those fights — what a rush!




Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language

Opening Friday: Lakewood Ranch Cinemas, Hollywood 20, Oakmont 8, Royal Palm 20, Sarasota 12