Knight at the Movies Archives
A by the numbers action thriller, an offbeat indie trying to find an audience: it must be January at the movies!
It's January which for film critics who don't make the trek to Sundance means that the junk, the filler, the hard to categorize and the
small films which didn't create enough buzz to get award nominations vie for attention with all the good stuff that's still in theaters.
Taken, a kidnap thriller starring Liam Neeson, falls somewhere between the junk and filler categories while Wendy and Lucy, a good
example of minimalist cinema with Michelle Williams, didn't get enough buzz for Williams' nuanced performance to garner any
nominations – at least not yet.
In Taken, Neeson, his hair dyed black with red highlights, plays a retired espionage agent who draws upon his experience when his
precious, though estranged, teenaged daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace, 17 going on 27), is kidnapped by a white slave ring while on
vacation in Paris. Neeson heads to the City of Lights, where he tells a former spy buddy-turned-cop, “I will tear down the Eiffel Tower
if I have to!” In a series of increasingly unbelievable coincidences (including the kidnappers being identified by the sound of their
accents!), that's just about what Neeson tries to do (one sequence involves him single-handedly taking out a brothel). Soon the
unshaven villains with their bad teeth and “tick ox-cents” who have his baby know that a Jason Bourne type is hot on their trail but
are still determined to sell her to the highest bidder before he catches them. Neeson, big and beefy, adroitly makes with the chop-
socky, electronic gizmos and a range of firearms in his quest to reunite with Kim, all the better to repair their relationship and to
introduce Kim, who wants to be a singer, to the Fergie-like pop star whose life he saved in the opening sequence of the movie.
This silly hokum is so full of plot holes that it truly lives up to its title. But having been warned not to get Taken (sorry) – the dumb-
dumb movie is filled with enough familiar action sequences to please fans of Commando, the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger picture
and its ilk Taken so closely resembles – though Neeson could have used a sidekick with sass, like Rae Dawn Chong, to liven things
up a bit.
Oddly, with all the fuss over the recent spate of dog-themed pictures— Bolt, Marley & Me, Hotel For Dogs, etc. – Wendy and Lucy is
one canine-centered movie that's a genuine tearjerker – all the more so because its trappings are so undramatic and unstylized that
it seems at times to be happening in real time. Williams plays Wendy, a shy loner, heading to Alaska and the promise of a
summer job with her dog, Lucy. However, a run of bad luck forces her to rely against her nature on the kindness of strangers –
especially when her beloved Lucy disappears after Wendy's arrested for shoplifting dog food. Williams goes from quiet desperation
to indecision and, finally, heartbreak in an unforced, unfussy manner. I'm not usually a fan of minimalist films, but Williams' work
in writer-director Kelly Reichardt's film has given me a new appreciation of the genre.
Taken-Wendy and Lucy
1-28-09 Windy City Times KATM Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.