Taken: 2-Disc Extended Cut [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (20th June 2009).
The Film

I’ve said it many times before, but I think it bears repeating that I’m a total sucker for a good revenge flick. I emphasize good because for every "Man on Fire" (2004), there’s a watered-down thumb-twiddler like "The Brave One" (2007). Revenge films have to walk a fine line between being ballsy and brutal, and having enough mass appeal to even be made in the first place. Since the revenge subgenre is so tried and true, it takes something special to stand out above the pack. (The apex of the genre, for those curious, will always be 1974’s "Death Wish") "Taken" had the same generic premise as most others: guy’s mother/wife/daughter is kidnapped, guy goes on hunt to find loved one and save them. It’s not rocket science. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the film’s trailer, but the strong word of mouth it’s been receiving placed it at the top of my current must-see list. I should have known better than to doubt a revenge flick: a) starring an actor I like seeing kick ass (Liam Neeson), b) written by Luc Besson; and c) that comes in around a tight 90 minutes. "Taken" doesn’t reinvent the cinematic wheel of vengeance, but it does beat it to a fine pulp.

Liam Neeson is Bryan Mills, a retired Black Ops soldier who’s trying to live the simple life and rekindle a relationship with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). That, however, isn’t easy due to her mother’s (Famke Janssen) tenuous relationship with Bryan, not to mention her multi-millionaire stepfather (fantastic character actor Xander Berkeley) upstages him in every way. Kim decides to go with a friend to Europe to follow around U2, though she tells Bryan otherwise, and almost as soon as they arrive they are kidnapped by Albanian sex traffickers. So, naturally, Bryan hops on to the next flight to Paris to find the men responsible for kidnapping his daughter.

I’m glad someone finally decided to make a movie where Liam Neeson kicks major ass, because the guy is damn good at it. Neeson has always been a solid, dependable actor. You never hear “Liam Neeson sucks in this movie”. He has previously kicked ass before, in the unfairly maligned "Darkman" (1990), but not like this. Here, Liam plays a guy with nothing else in life other than his daughter and a particular set of skills that give bad guys a major headache. What I enjoyed so much about his performance is that you never doubt for a minute that he won’t kick someone’s ass. There’s an intensely subtle moment where, right before unleashing a barrage of fury, Bryan quickly surveys a room full of men to determine how easily he can take them. It’s awesome because you know exactly what he’s thinking, and you know he can pull it off. I was reminded of Charles Bronson’s turn as a bare knuckle street brawler in 1975’s "Hard Times"; there’s never a moment in that film that you don’t think Bronson will steamroll everyone in his path. Bryan is very much a character cut from the same cloth.

A film this solid and tight is a difficult task for a second-time director to correctly pull off without subjecting the audience to lots of needless exposition, and Pierre Morel isn’t to thank for cutting out the fat. That distinction would go to one of the film’s writers, French director Luc Besson. Besson is a fantastic filmmaker and he’s responsible for some awesome films, such as "Leon: The Professional" (1994) and "The Fifth Element" (1997). Working alongside Robert Mark Kamen, who has written some great films (such as "The Karate Kid" (1984) and "Gladiator" (1992) as well as continuous collaborations with Besson) and some total crap ("The Next Karate Kid" (1994) ?!?), Besson has crafted a simple, tight, effective thriller that wastes no time on bullshit and devotes almost the entire film to watching Bryan beat some ass. This is exactly the kind of kick-in-the-ass film that I love, and apparently it’s struck a chord with audiences, too, since the film had raked it in at the box office.

"Taken" is a quick, hard-hitting film that doesn’t waste a lot of time. If you’re looking for some great entertainment, especially if you like revenge films, then you really can’t go wrong. There’s nothing particularly amazing that makes this film stand out above any other in the genre, but sometimes a film that dispenses with the crap and makes good on the promise of unholy vengeance is just what you want to see.

This Blu-ray edition of "Taken" includes the 'PG-13' theatrical cut as well as the 'Unrated Extended Cut' version. The preferred version, in my opinion, is the 'Unrated Extended Cut' which adds some extra bloodshed during the film’s many shootouts, as well as a more intense interrogation scene. When it comes to a film like this, I’ll take all of the extra carnage I can get.

Video

"Taken" is presented in a 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer that looks quite stunning, although it is at times a little on the soft side. For the most part, though, the image is sharp and well-defined. There are many scenes that have the “pop” effect that home theater enthusiasts crave. Black levels are a little murky in a few scenes, but generally hold up well. It’s not reference quality but this is definitely one sharp looking picture. I did notice that skin tones looked a little hot on occasion, but that’s just nitpicking. Fans will be more than satisfied with this transfer.

Audio

The main audio track is a powerful English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit. The sound here is very impressive, with lots of power to each gunshot, kidney punch or brutal method of hard-fisted interrogation. Surrounds are also given some good use when needed. Dialogue sounds very clear and loud, as it should.
Also available are French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound tracks. Subtitles are available for English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

In addition to containing both cuts of the film, "Taken" offers up some worthy supplements, including two audio commentaries, a few featurettes, an interactive feature, a bonus trailer and a digital copy of the film. Even though what is present here doesn’t appear to be all that much, to be fair, this film is a tight, fast-paced juggernaut with good action scenes and a simple plot. Anything viewers wish to know will no doubt be covered by the extras provided.

DISC ONE:

The audio commentary with director Pierre Morel, cinematographer Michel Abramowicz and stunt coordinator Michel Julienne is in French, so their comments are subtitled at the bottom of the screen. I’m not a big fan of listening to/reading a commentary in this manner, but I’m glad they still chose to include it, as the three participants do have plenty to talk about the regarding film’s production.

The second audio commentary is with screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, which is, thankfully, in English, is a great listen because he provides some great insight into the script. It’s a great track because Kamen is able to really get deep into some exposition here and discuss the meanings behind the characters’ motivations in addition to divulging little factoids about all of the film that may have been lost on most viewers.

“Black Ops Field Manual” is an interactive feature which, when launched, will display geographical locators, anatomical information and a self-updating mission dashboard” in a pop-up window. This is only available for players equipped with "BonusView" (profile 1.1 or greater).

“Le Making Of” is a featurette which runs for 18 minutes and 24 seconds. Even though it’s hardly an in-depth piece, this is a decent behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. Liam Neeson takes center stage here to discuss the character he plays and the experience of working with director Pierre Morel. All of the film’s major action set pieces, and the car chase, are also covered.

“Avant Premiere” featurette runs for 4 minutes and 48 seconds, this is just a glimpse at the film’s premiere, nothing too exciting.

“Inside Action: Side-By-Side Comparisons” contains six short featurettes that show the shooting of some key scenes alongside shots of the crew filming them. They include:

- “Peter’s Death” runs for 49 seconds.
- “Bryan Escapes Construction Site” runs for 3 minutes and 6 seconds.
- “Good Luck” runs for 51 seconds.
- “The Interrogation” runs for 2 minutes and 7 seconds.
- “Bryan At Saint Clair’s” runs for 1 minute and 39 seconds.
- “Boat Fight” runs for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

Finally, a bonus trailer is included, not for "Taken", but for The Notorious B.I.G. biopic, "Notorious", It runs for 1 minute and 9 seconds.

DISC TWO:

The package also contains this second disc with a digital copy of the film’s 'Unrated Extended Cut' available for portable media devices.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: B- Overall: B+

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.