“Taken,” the second-highest-grossing movie of 2008, is a not particularly thrilling thriller starring Liam Neeson as the retired CIA guy and one-man killing machine Bryan Mills, who goes to Paris (onboard the Falcon tri-jet belonging to his ex-wife’s new husband) and hunts down the Albanian mafia who have kidnapped his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy). With her mother’s complicity, Kim has deceived her father as to the real purpose of the trip. Amanda has already been to France and can practically, like, speak French. The two young ladies say they will be spending the entire summer in the Louvre, comparing the brushwork techniques of Baroque painters. Of course, their real mission is to follow U2 from show to show: “Uno, dos, tres, catorce.” Meanwhile, the Albanians’ racket involves the kidnapping of western girls, hooking them on drugs, and employing them as sex slaves. Kim’s value is particularly high because she’s a virgin. (We’re supposed to believe she grew up in Beverly Hills and made it unscathed through high school.) Going to the apartment where the girls had stayed, Bryan finds Kim’s phone. From its memory card he downloads photos showing where to start his search. He commences a singularly ruthless dispensation of the entire Albanian mafia, including the electric chair for one a chief perp. It’s remotely amusing to watch and goes by fast enough, but what’s lacking is any clue about Kim’s internal state. A couple of scenes showing her predicament would add some snap, but instead we’re just presented with Bryan’s monomaniacal pursuit. (Maybe it was decided not to go this route because none of the supporting cast seem to have any acting chops whatsoever.) He eventually finds Amanda OD’d and intercedes just as Kim is auctioned to a lascivious sheik, and it’s a shame his lovely yacht gets shot up like that. Showing no sign of yearning for the narcotics the other girls succumbed to, Kim is returned to her mother in L.A.
Date night value: Not very high
Best attribute: It goes by quick
Least endurable aspect: Neeson’s continually dyspeptic, scowling face