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25% dramatic build-up followed by 75% pulverisingly violent payback
on 15 May 2009
Well, Bryan makes a lot of mess. That's what he does, you see. Bryan's a former 'covert operative', highly trained at 'preventing' and has seen some action in the Middle East in fighting the Hezbollah among many other factions in other unsettled parts of the world. But now he's retired so that he can spend more time in LA with his 17-year-old daughter, who lives with his ex-wife and her new super-rich husband. Daughter goes to Paris with a girlfriend, they get kidnapped within hours of arriving and Daddy takes it upon himself to get her back, all on his own, against seemingly impossible odds.
This started out as what appeared to be a welcome return to the screens of an intelligent thriller. There aren't enough of those these days and I relished the chance to see a very good actor in a well-scripted, suspense-filled movie. I thought I was on to a winner, but very soon after Bryan arrives in Paris the whole mood and impression of the film changed; the dialogue became next to meaningless (most of what is there is somewhat stereotyped) and it quickly descends - or ascends, you could argue - into a fast, action-packed thriller of a more violent kind. I must admit that it was done well, it satisfied the base human need for retribution but it didn't make me think very much. The pace of the hunt and pursuit across Paris was well choreographed and the violence was uncompromising and bordering on the gratuitous, but once again this did satisfy at a basic revenge-fuelled level. It's just that I had expected something more intellectually challenging given the tasters of the first twenty minutes or so. Instead it quickly transforms itself into a veritable orgy of snapped necks, point-blank shootings and the ubiquitous decapitation to conclude a car-chase. This film is really 25% emotional build-up and 75% pulverisingly violent payback, with Liam Neeson seemingly indestructible in any form of combat regardless of how heavily he is outnumbered. He makes the likes of Bond and Bourne look like members of the local knitting club, very rarely displaying any sign of vulnerability such that it's not long before the viewer knows for sure that Bryan's going to carry out his unlikely objective with little more than minor cuts and bruises, despite leaving a trail of probably 30 or 40 bodies in his wake. Hmmm - maybe 50, come to think about it.
Neeson is nevertheless convincing in the role, while all the others are little more than talking heads or swinging fists with very little acting skill on display. This was also a film notable for some tiresome 'product placements', the most obvious of which were a pair of Audi cars and some Sony electronic equipment. If I were to run through the film again I'm sure I could come up with a list of other brands on display, collectively designed of course to subsidise the cost of making the film.
I went into this film with higher hopes than those that were fulfilled. On reflection, if you liked The Bourne films and possibly Quantum of Solace then you will possibly like this too, but in the end the violence takes precedence over just about everything else. As for the Blu-Ray aspect, I didn't think that this was a film to reap obvious benefits from that and although I haven't seen the standard-definition version I would expect the viewing experience to be very similar.