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Don't Get Taken In

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I was tempted by Harry Connick Jr. looking all hot and bearded in New in Town, but the tall, accented Liam Neeson as an ass-kicking ex-CIA daddy won my attention instead. When the credits for Taken began rolling and Luc Besson's name popped up as the writer, my stomach dropped a little. My gut was right -- it was an action movie easy on the eyes, but with a nauseating plot, capitalizing on every out-of-touch fear that wealthy overprotected parents have. If you travel overseas to a posh apartment in Paris, if you don't have a chaperone, you will instantly be sold into white slavery! That's why you call your parents as soon as the plane lands, kids. Oh, and don't worry if your father is absent for the majority of your life, he's off building useful skills like converting home wiring into electrical torture or knowing where to shoot your enemy's wife in the arm to elicit intel. These talents will come in handy when said terrorist kidnapping occurs while you're gallivanting through Europe, following U2's concert tour. (Really? That's how rich teens spend their money?)

The trafficking of young girls by the hands of greasy stereotypes has quickly become the gasp-inducing go-to subplot in thriller movies, but at least it didn't slide too far into any dark Freudian territory, though maybe that's just because I wouldn't entirely mind Liam Neeson as my father or as my new favorite action hero. Neeson is a bit of an awkward, lumbering presence, which is part of his appeal, but it makes for some stunted acting at times. When he talked, I'd instead drool over his black leather peacoat, imagining its smell, then I'd perk back up when he'd get down to the business of snapping a guy's neck. Most of the stunts seem to really be Neeson himself, not a double. While this movie is underwhelming, the potential for him as the next middle-aged action hero is definitely there. The hand-to-hand combat scenes are amazing I felt dirty for being turned on in the theater of a movie about selling virgin girls, and the movie would be best watched with all the dialogue scenes on fast-forward, so don't let the number-one box office winner fool you -- wait to get sucked into it on a plane or in a hotel room. And I'll continue to daydream about Liam Neeson filming a new Atom Egoyan picture with Julianne Moore. Be still, my heart. And other body parts.

-- A. Raymond Johnson

> Toni Collette's got personality -- lots of 'em!

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