This should more properly be called Kidnapped, and not be confused with the funky Stephen King miniseries of the same name. It’s a simple title for a simple story: a girl is grabbed and Dad doesn’t like it, basically; but it’s also a good example of what can be done with a good but unremarkable script if you give it a bunch of really good actors.
Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, who used to do something mysterious for the government. They mention Langley, so I’m guessing he was CIA, but he calls himself a Preventer. No, I’m not sure what that means either, but the details of it aren’t important. He used to travel all over the world Preventing Bad Things, which of course meant that he had little time left over to spend with his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen, who barely has enough scenes to get warmed up) and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace — she was on Lost, but don’t ask me if she was on the plane that crashed or not). Now, though, he’s retired and living near his ex-wife and child, trying to work his way back into Kim’s life.
Kim gets the chance to visit Paris, and like pretty much any 17-year-old, leaps at the opportunity. But of course her father, who has seen nothing but the dregs of society most of his life, objects strenuously. The audience knows he’s right to object, but we also know that he’s going to give in, because he can’t say no to his little girl. Classic divorced parent syndrome.
Anyway, this is where the movie lives up to its title — Kim and her friend are grabbed and hauled out of the apartment they’re staying in (which is huge and way too cool for any teenagers to be allowed to stay in alone). But Kim was on the phone with her father at the time, and that’s when you get the bit you’ve probably seen in the previews, where Liam Neeson explains to his daughter’s kidnappers exactly how he’s going to hunt them down if they don’t let her go. That’s a good part. That’s where you see Liam flex his acting muscles.
|Hint: No one who gets in Liam’s way should feel lucky.|
Apparently being a preventer requires knowing a fair amount about an awful lot of things. He does basic forensic analysis, tracking, wild driving, and of course lots of fighting and shooting. LOTS of those. I heard a reviewer compare him to Jason Bourne, but that’s wrong, even aside from my own personal conviction that no one will ever play a better super spy/assassin than Matt Damon. It’s wrong because he’s a lot meaner than Jason Bourne. I understand the whole vengeful, desperate father thing, of course, but when he shoots an innocent bystander for no real reason (though to be fair, he does only shoot to wound), I kind of didn’t like him for a little while.
It turns into a pretty typical action movie after the big threat scene — not great, but again, when you’ve got a cast and crew who know what they’re doing, that’s okay. Liam has an unfortunate knack for getting his next lead killed before they can give up any information, so he’s often more like Bond than Bourne, stumbling into the bad guys’ strongholds and trusting to some combination of skill, luck, and the righteousness of his cause to get him through. And there’s a car chase through a construction site, which is either the largest construction site in the world, or involved an awful lot of going round and round in circles.
But aside from these nitpicks, it’s a good, solid, three-idol movie. Poor Famke really is wasted as the worried mother, because this is a one-man show. You don’t need to know anything except that Liam’s mad, and you shouldn’t get in his way. Just sit back with the popcorn, let the stunts wash all over you, and enjoy.