Friday, February 2, 2024

Flashback/Film Friday: "Taken," and the Emergence of the Old Man Action Movie Protagonist

These days movies about older men who find themselves in the middle of action flicks are basically their own cottage industry. From Michael Caine in, "Harry Brown," to Bob Odenkirk in, "The Nobody," giving us a more comedic take to the recent all-ages-ish, "The Family Plan," with Mark Wahlberg, and of course the fantastic, "John Wick," series, there's a lot to watch (with more than I even named, obviously). That said, it all arguably started with, "Taken," and Liam Neeson.

In, "Taken," Liam Neeson is a retired CIA officer struggling to connect with his daughter. She goes to Europe and is quickly kidnapped by sex traffickers. Nesson goes to save her and kills a whole lot of people along the way. With a mix of fun action scenes and a scene featuring a now-famous monologue about Neeson's special, "Skills," the flick became a huge hit.

"Taken," is an okay film made doubly better by Neeson's pure commitment to the role. In the same way the aforementioned Michael Caine's deadpan and intense acting in, "A Muppet Christmas Carol," almost seems like it belongs in a different film, Nesson's mix of sadness, seriousness, and violent rage elevates a seemingly generic, "My kid has been kidnapped!" movie to a whole new level. "Taken," came out 15 years ago and as this article by Mark Hill of Inverse discusses, its success somewhat caught people off guard. The whole thing seemed like a big-name actor taking a silly action movie gig to pay some bills. When you look at the actual plot in the abstract it seems riddled with xenophobic and offensive stereotypes as well as basically slut-shaming the kidnapped daughter.  Still, Neeson makes it worthwhile and people really liked, "Taken," with it making a lot of money and getting two sequels.

When viewed from the right angle the movie seems almost a little tongue-in-cheek and hints at Neeson possibly being a bit of a villain himself whose only saving grace is he's (generally) harming worse people--with the exception of a startingly uncomfortable scene where he shoots the innocent wife of a dirty cop in the shoulder.  When I witnessed that when viewing, "Taken," years ago I literally mumbled, "Oh, he's kind of a bad guy too," to myself. That said, to my understanding later, "Taken," franchise films simply make Neeson's character out to look heroic, but the first film at least has some morally murky elements.

"Taken," is not the best movie, but it is solidly entertaining. Without it, I don't know if we would have gotten other, "Old Man Action Movie," films so we owe it as well as Liam Neeson thanks for that. Out of all his character's skills, I guess creating a whole sub-genre was the one he was most proficient in.


  1. Have you forgotten Denzel Washington? Jeff Bridges- who stars in the aptly-named series, "Old Man"? ;)

    1. Denzel Washington is great in, "The Equalizer," series for sure!