“And let’s not talk about the fighting in Taken, unless we want Starke to go on at length about how wrong it is when paired with the main character’s background and profession.” Is it wrong that I actually really want to read that? I always take Hollywood combat with a giant grain of salt, but Taken seems to have tried to emphasize a kind of realism regarding Neeson’s character’s abilities (though, still, Hollywood). I’d be interested to read a pro’s opinion on the inconsistencies.

This goes way back to something we said a long time ago about tailoring your martial arts to your characters. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) uses a modern style that appropriates material from Aikido and Jujitsu.

Now, the style was designed by an ex-SAS operator, to be used by celebrity bodyguards. It’s supposed to use as little force as possible to subdue unruly fans while the bodyguard is on camera. While I kind of cringe at the style on a philosophical level, the concept is solid, and it’s aimed at a niche that really benefits from a specialized art form.

Here’s the problem: the movie isn’t about a bodyguard protecting a celebrity in front of the cameras. It’s about an ex-special forces operator trying to recover his daughter from human traffickers.

Mills sticks to that single style through the entire film, and, fairly frequently, he’s put into situations where that style really does not excel.

Now, a real person, or even a realistic character based on that background, like Jack Bauer, Vincent (from Michael Mann’s Collateral), Val Kilmer’s character from Spartan, Michael Weston (from Burn Notice) and nearly every Treadstone trained character in the Bourne films (not in the books) all mix up their styles to deal with the situation they’re presented with.

These are all characters that should be trained in multiple hand to hand styles; so they can employ them easily in any appropriate situation.

Mills is regularly sidelined by rookie mistakes that wouldn’t be out of place in a thriller with an untrained protagonist, but are completely out of place if your protagonist is supposed to be Jack Bauer with the serial numbers filed off. The scene where he’s dragged out of a car by one foot comes to mind as an example.

Would it be a better film if Miles was employing kill strikes like the Bourne films use? I’m not sure, it has a lot more problems that stem from Luc Besson handing off the director reins, but at least then Mills would be a credible special forces operator and not a suspension of disbelief shattering roadblock.

If you want to see what Taken could have been, I’d say rent Spartan. It’s a very similar film, from 2004, but with a much more brutal hand to hand element, and really a more brutal ethic to the entire film. I wouldn’t call it a fun movie, but if you want to write a special operator, then I would say it’s required viewing.

-Starke

Also, we’re finally home; regular posting should resume shortly.

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