The 23rd Best Movie I’ve Seen This Year

#23. Taken

I’ve been trying to figure out how to spell the word “yech.” Or maybe it’s “yelch.” “Yealch.” “Yealk.” It’s onomatopoeia, so it’s a little tricky, but it’s that word you say when you’re trying to say “yuck,” but your tongue gets involved, and so it kind of adds a lllllll sound at the back of your throat.
“Yulck.”  Sure. Let’s do that.
I bring this up because that’s the word that sprang unbidden to my lips when I decided that I should review all of the 23 movies I’ve seen this year,  starting with the bottom – and I saw that on the bottom was Taken.
Now, understand, this is a clear case of misplaced enthusiasm. There were certainly worse movies released this year (I fortunately avoided almost all of them), but Taken had a lot going for it. It starred a classic man’s man, Liam Neeson, a man with educated tone and ever-haunted eyes – the man who taught Bruce Wayne to fight in Batman Begins, appeared in one of the greatest duels in cinema history in Rob Roy, and made us weep like little children in Love Actually (maybe that was just me). This is a man who appeared in The Phantom Menace and yet somehow became more awesome. This is an actor of terrific power. And this is an actor wasted.

I was so certain I would like this movie that I almost didn’t realize that I didn’t. In the middle of yet another disjointed, poorly shot car chase, Claire whispered to me “hey, are you really bored?” And it suddenly hit me – I was really bored.  I was terribly bored. I was nearly asleep. I just hadn’t realized it until just that moment, because my brain just kept telling me “any second now – it’s gonna get good.
All you need to understand about the movie is this: there’s a great exchange during the trailer where Neeson is on the phone with the people who took his daughter – it played in every single one of their 30-second TV spots, and it's on that poster over there on the top left. In it, Neeson promises to find and kill every one of the kidnappers. A dark voice on the other end of the line growls knowingly, “good luck,” then hangs up with a click. At this point, everyone in the theater watching the trailer is practically fist-pumping with anticipation. “Oh, it is on! Liam Neeson’s gonna kill that mother!” It looks like a classic cat-and-mouse as Neeson hunts down the thieves while the mastermind behind it all sends him down darkened alleys and into traps.
Instead, the guy on the other end of the phone turns out to be a fairly dumb, run-of-the-mill thug who Neeson stumbles upon midway through the film. When he dies, you’ll know you’re about two-thirds of the way through the movie.