Taken-Frost/Nixon

Taken

3.5 Stars

One man against the criminal (or not strictly criminal) underworld movies are a dime a dozen. Jason Statham tends to star in most of them (though I have this theory that he’s really a superhero who refuses to wear a cape). But there’s something about Liam Neeson hunting down sex slave traders who have kidnapped his daughter in Paris. It doesn’t re-invent the genre, but it certainly upgrades it.

Former spy Bryan Mills (Neeson) relunctantly allows his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) tour Europe with her friend, Amanda, on the condition she safe. Unfortunately sex slave traders have other ideas, and promptly kidnap the two girls upon their arrival in the city of lights. What’s worse is Bryan was on the phone with Kim when it happened. Utilizing his old skills and old contacts, Bryan begins the race against the clock to find his daughter before she is literally lost forever, and takes him on a violent, rage and vengeance fueled romp through Paris.

Neeson is the true highlight of the film. He shows that these solo action ventures aren’t just for the young guys like Matt Damon and the aforementioned Statham. And, given his pedigree, he brings a gravitas to a role that could have otherwise been very bland. He doesn’t exactly breathe new life into the role that has been routinely played by Harrison Ford (family man trying to get back his family, tell me I’m wrong) for the past ten years, but he does bring a different perspective.

It’s hard to believe that it took almost a year to get this in the States (released in France almost a year ago), but Pierre Morel’s directorial follow up to 2004’s District 13 seems tailor made for the American action film climate. By that I mean the aging hero back in the game, and with Statham and Damon movies doing well, it’s a perfect fit. I found the most intriguing aspect of his cinematic eye (on this film, anyway) is his removal of the rose tinted glasses we’ve been looking through when thinking of Paris. He finds the underbelly, and enhances it in a completly un romantic way.

I felt like I got my money’s worth with this film. I was entertained, and glued to my seat the entire time, and really… entertainment goes a long way with me. It’s not a game changer, but it is a performance enhancer.

Frost/Nixon

3.5 stars

I had the misfortune of seeing this after the Oscar nominations were announced, after much had been written on it, after much negative had been written on it. One piece by me. I had said “Instead the Academy opted for the generally safe historical dramas. “Nothing against Frost/Nixon, as I have yet to see it, but what could it possibly bring to the filmmaking table that The Dark Knight did not? It’s a dramatization of TV interviews. You could pretty much Youtube about half the movie.” And in some aspects… I was right. But in some… I was completely not.

As stated, Frost/Nixon is a dramatization of the 1977 David Frost (Michael Sheen)/Richard Nixon (Frank Lagella) interviews, where he, as the film so delicately puts it, gives him the trial he never got. But it is more than a regurgitation of what we could buy in a TimeLife set for the low low price of $19.99 plus S&H. It highlights Frost’s personal and professional struggle to get the interviews, and, much in the same way W. did with George W. Bush, humanizes Nixon.

Langella has been heaped with his praise for his portrayal of the fallen President, a role he originated in the stage show. And Langella (Superman Returns) does in fact bring a vulnerability to the character. But overlooked has been his adversary. Sheen (The Queen) brings an intensity and conflict to a character who is a celebrity of his time. And, as per usual, the dynamite performance of Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) has gone criminally overlooked.

The main problem with this film is that while the performances are engaging, as a whole, the film is standard at best. In pure filmmaking terms, Ron Howard (The Da Vinci Code) shows no signs of growth concerning historical drama from his 1995 epic Apollo 13. It doesn’t change the game for filmmaking, and isn’t a landmark in any respect. It was as I expected. And that was it’s detriment. The film didn’t wow me.

Go and stay for the performances, but you won’t get much else out of this film than what you can catch on YouTube, or PBS if they’re feeling frisky.

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