sugoll (sugoll) wrote,


This came as a surprise, when I first saw the trailer last year. Liam Neeson as an action hero? Okay, let's give that a go.

It ticks a lot of boxes in the action hero cliche canon. Neeson is a former operative for some unspecified US Government agency, that had him travelling the world a lot and (unknown to his daughter) doing hard-case stuff. So, presumably CIA, then. He's now retired. Check the no-longer-active and secret-past boxes.

His ex-wife is married to some rich guy, and he's not welcome there. His 17-year-old daughter lives with her mother. Check the separated-wife box.

He's paranoid about the world and overprotective of his daughter, so not keen when she and a cousin go off to Paris by themselves, so insists she call him on arrival, and every night, and various other things. She agrees, then he discovers they're actually going to be following U2 around Europe on tour. Check the children-lie-to-parents-and-get-into-trouble box.

And the trouble? She and cousin get kidnapped while on the phone to him. Which at least gives him a head-start and an opportunity to grandstand. And ticks the hero's-dire-predictions-come-true box.

From then onwards, we're into action mode, as Neeson gets some info from his old Agency pals and hares off to Paris. He finds the first bad guy quickly, in a reasonably interesting way, and then makes the terrible mistake of confronting him immediately, instead of following him. Sigh. And for the rest of the film, it's like 24: following the slightest hint which turns out to be a solid lead, while leaving a trail of bodies and getting hassled by the French police.

Neeson makes a good fist of the fight sequences, which are mostly one-on-one. They're not at the level of, say, the recent Bourne movies, but then again, you can actually follow what's happening.

What's interesting about this film is what cliches it doesn't tick. And here be spoilers. For example, there's no love interest. He doesn't get back with his ex-wife, and he doesn't actually profess affection. The ex-wife's new husband doesn't turn out to be involved in the kidnapping. The daughter isn't kidnapped for money from the rich husband, nor as a means of coercion of Neeson's character - it's purely opportunistic. He does get hired to do Just One Last Job, but that's before this all kicks off, and is for the purposes of establishing character - it's unrelated to the main events of the film. His daughter hasn't been raised to be a hard-case herself, doesn't fight off bad guys and, in fact, doesn't appear for the majority of the film. There isn't some grand plan that will spell disaster for millions - this is a personal matter. There isn't a primary villain established early on; there's just a succession of nasty pieces of work as Neeson moves up the chain of a human trafficking operation.

Neeson's a surprising choice of leading man, here. It works okay, I guess. His age is an issue: He was 56 when this was made, which fits the retiree bracket, but means he was 39 when his daughter was born. Possible, I suppose. I'd have thought someone a decade younger would have been better. And I'm not sure he's got the weight to carry this off. He does come across as inoffensive most of the time, which is what you want from an undercover spy. I'd prefer someone with more intensity, though.

Still, a more thoughtful entry to the genre.

Tags: movies
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