Flick-Off: Taken

So I decided to watch one of those mind-numbingly mediocre action films, assuming I’d walk away from the experience merely mind-numbed and ready to move forward with more serious cinema. The exact opposite happened. Not only is Taken a terribly made film in terms of its pacing, plot points, character development, and dialogue, it’s one of the most offensive, misogynistic films I’ve seen in a long time.
imdb summary: Seventeen year-old Kim is the pride and joy of her father Bryan Mills. Bryan is a retired agent who left the Secret Service to be near Kim in California. Kim lives with her mother Lenore and her wealthy stepfather Stuart. Kim manages to convince her reluctant father to allow her to travel to Paris with her friend Amanda. When the girls arrive in Paris they share a cab with a stranger named Peter, and Amanda lets it slip that they are alone in Paris. Using this information an Albanese gang of human traffickers kidnaps the girls. Kim barely has time to call her father and give him information. Her father gets to speak briefly to one of the kidnappers and he promises to kill the kidnappers if they do not let his daughter go free. The kidnapper wishes him “good luck,” so Bryan Mills travels to Paris to search for his daughter and her friend.

First, the tortured relationship between Kim and her father exists solely to set up the mother as a careless, liberal, money-grubbing asshole. While he gets to be the oh-it’s-too-dangerous-for-my-17-year-old-daughter-to-go-to-Paris-alone “good parent,” the mother gets relegated to the role of oh-just-let-her-go-I-mean-what-could-possibly-go-wrong “bad parent.” Of course, shit goes terribly wrong, and the audience can’t help but be all, “that horrible mother should’ve known better!” Then, as is usually the case, Daddy gets to rush to the rescue while Mommy stays at home sobbing into the arms of her new, rich, conveniently helpless husband.

To make matters worse, the Albanese gang deals in sex trafficking, which is an actual, serious issue in the world, an issue that this film exploits to serve the ultimate, final plot point: Daddy gets to save Kim from the evil Albanese sex traffickers in the moments just before she loses her virginity and remains forever “impure.” The most offensive aspect of all this rests on the fact that Bryan’s (and the film’s) focus never veers from his daughter. So, while we see countless drugged-up young women tied to bed posts, waiting to be raped again, the film treats them and their situation as entirely insignificant; the focus always remains on Daddy’s ass-kicking, murdering attempts to save his daughter’s virginity.

After he finds her friend Amanda dead and tied to a bedpost, he moves on to the next young woman who might help him, a girl who happens to have his daughter’s jacket. He runs from room to room, finding women unconscious, enslaved, raped repeatedly, and he saves that particular girl, not because he’s appalled by what’s happened to her, but because she might lead him to his daughter. He nurses her back to health, and as soon as she can speak full sentences, he interrogates her about where she got the jacket. Basically, the film makes absolutely no attempt whatsoever to comment on the atrocity of sex trafficking—it serves only as a plot device to help Bryan redeem his broken relationship with his virginal daughter.

I hated this film.


  • Posted November 11, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad you reviewed this film because I kind of wanted to see it but was afraid that this is EXACTLY why I wouldn’t like it. Thanks so much for the warning.

  • Posted November 16, 2009 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    Oh, penis gun.

  • Anonymous
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Yes the dad wants to save her daughter from becoming a slave and being raped, what an asshole.

    Like you said, this does happens. I suppose that what you expect is the father to start writing letters and campaigning about the issue instead of going all “action hero” on us. But that would be a pretty boring movie.

  • Posted November 16, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for reading, Anon. However, you have conveniently missed the point of our commentary.

    Revenge-porn movies like this one fail to even draw attention to atrocities like the sex trafficking industry because complex issues are used as devices. This is a plot that seeks to rescue a helpless young female virgin with violent masculinity–reinforcing the misogynist notion that a woman’s sexuality is owned, protected, and controlled by men, and that female virginity should be prized above all else.

    I love a good issues-driven action flick, but this one is just offensive.

  • tvexpert
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    Whats offensive to me is this:

    “Daddy gets to save Kim from the evil Albanese sex traffickers in the moments just before she loses her virginity and remains forever “impure.””

    Yes, what the dad is trying to protect is her daughter’s virginity (because apparently he has an old fashioned view of sex) and not his daughter horrible fate of being raped and enslaved.

    So basically we are pissed that is a man the one with the “particular set of skills”?.

    Too bad Angelina Jolie couldnt play the part.

  • Posted November 17, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Here are some questions for tvexpert:

    1. Why was the choice made that the daughter be a virgin? Is rape and enslavement not as serious and traumatic for a woman who’s had sex? Would the dramatic tension have been missing if she hadn’t been a virgin?

    2. Why was this mother represented as passive and even complicit in the daughter’s kidnapping?

    3. What does Angelina Jolie have to do with anything? If you’re wondering how the dynamic of the film might be different if a woman played the lead, that’s an interesting question. It would be an entirely different film–and would still be quite problematic unless other elements were also changed.

    4. Do you think attacking feminists as pissy man-haters is a rhetorically savvy move?

  • Posted November 27, 2009 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    Albanese. Of course… The men from the Balkans are all sex traffickers and drug dealers and women are whores.
    Charming, really.

    I can’t stand American movies. They are getting worse.
    How is that possible I can not understand.

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