For a couple of important reasons, we all remember (and re-watch) the 2008 movie Taken. To begin with, director/co-writer Luc Besson delivered an almost perfect genre film, a lean-mean 90 minutes of Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills utilizing his special set of skills to exact revenge on the thugs who made the mistake of kidnapping his daughter.
The second reason is just as important. After four years of Hollywood pumping out dozens of horrible movies smearing America’s role in the War on Terror, Taken was a burst of fresh air in ’08, a flash of reality that told the truth about Middle Easterners taking full advantage of France’s over-tolerance as a means to engage in sex trafficking while the “progressive” government looked the other way.
As a result, this little $25 million movie came out of nowhere to gross $227 million worldwide. Two sequels inevitably followed, and while they were nowhere near as good (Taken 3 is unwatchable garbage), the lingering goodwill of the first drove them to respective grosses of $376 million and $327 million.
Naturally, with a franchise still this hot, television came calling in the form of NBC.
Because movie-era Bryan Mills was already retired and middle-aged, NBC’s idea was to create an origin story. And so, 65-year-old Neeson (who is still as formidable as Charles Bronson was at that age) was replaced by 36-year-old Clive Standen and ten episodes ordered — which are now available on Netflix.
I made it through only five.
Just on the basis of competent and compelling storytelling, Taken fails a whole lot more than it succeeds. As Mills, Standen is nowhere near as imposing or intimidating as Neeson. Standen is too sweet for the role, more of a teddy bear on steroids as opposed to a guy haunted by the death of his sister, the event that opens the TV show.
It is also the death of his kid sister that encourages former Green Beret Mills to hook up with Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals) and her OPCON team of special intelligence operators.
The first two episodes are not great, but the action is good enough that you hang on in the hope things will improve. Unfortunately, it is in episode three where the collapse occurs, for it is here that Taken devolves into a super-lame piece of politically correct garbage.
Episode three not only treats us to lectures about all the (non-existent) anti-Islam bigotry in America, we also have Americans framing an innocent Muslim-American as a suicide bomber as a means to get the U.S. president (a woman, naturally) to be more aggressive in the Middle East.
On its own, this episode would be fine. The much-beloved 24 frequently hit us with this kind of story twist. But 24 was only interested in surprising us, not lecturing and hectoring us bigots from on high.
And yet, somehow, things got even worse. The bad guys in episode four? A pharmaceutical company. Because as we all know, the gravest threats to America are the assassin squads employed by Johnson & Johnson.
At this point, in the futile hope Taken had gotten its woke-ness out of its system, I decided to hang in.
In episode five’s painfully dull episode, after a top government official cheats on his wife with another man, he is blackmailed by an eeeevil businessman. The story closes with a pious lecture from the Jennifer Beals’ character about how homosexuals must have the courage to be true to themselves. She then demands that this poor guy tell his wife the truth about his super-okay gayness.
On what planet is her insinuation into this man’s marriage okay? On what planet is Beals not seen as a super-bossy, totalitarian shrew blackmailing this man in her own way due to her own fascist need to order the world in a certain way?
Not only is this episode immoral in its desire to turn Beals’s heartless buttisnky into some kind of heroic Social Justice Warrior, not only is it a heavy-handed eye-roller, it violated the Rules of Woke. Could it be that this man identifies as bi-sexual in an open marriage? Who are we to judge his truth?
That was not even the episode’s worst moment…
Monique Gabriela Curnen plays Visak, a skilled field operative who works with Mills. Visak is so competent, skilled, and woke, she is — get this — triggered by the word “darling.”
To make matters worse, she is triggered after one of her male colleagues refers to her as “darling” while they are undercover posing as a couple.
So what we have here is a progressive TV show, and still it portrays as heroic a female character so weak and uptight she cannot handle the word “darling” — even while undercover. If she is this easily provoked into losing her composure, how is Visak ever going to remain professional in the face of actual terrorists?
But, you know, there is nothing sexier than a neurotic chick with a firearm and no sense of humor.
Although it was picked up for a second season (that just launched last week), Taken is already a ratings disaster. The season one premiere attracted 7.5 million viewers. By the end of that season, only 4.4 million bothered to tune in. Worse still, the season two premiere attracted only 2.8 million viewers.
NBC’s Taken is, in reality, the anti-Taken, the Bizzaro Taken, the exact opposite of everything that made the original movie so popular and enduring — an unstoppable man’s man on a quest for vengeance against a threat that actually exists in our world, not the makers of Tylenol.
It is almost as if NBC spent $50 million just to insult Taken fans, to work out their own provincial and intolerant grudge towards a movie that dared appeal to Middle America.
We will have the last laugh, though. NBC’s horribly expensive and dull lecture will soon be canceled and forgotten, while the original lives on long afterward.