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Great film - see the movie for its own sake
on May 15, 2009
When I was a soldier stationed in Germany in the 1970s there was a raid on a Turkish-owned bar on the outskirts of Frankfurt A/M. German Polizei and US CID (US Army Criminal Investigation Division) broke up a white slavery ring that had been operating out of the bar for some time. The bar was a way-point in the transportation route of young European girls (preferably blonde) who had been kidnapped throughout Europe and were being smuggled to be sold in the harems and brothels of the Middle and Far East. The police found some twenty girls in the basement of the bar, some from as far away as Denmark and the Netherlands, waiting to be shipped further down the pipeline.
The German police and Interpol had been watching the bar for some time and were hoping to trace the route farther down the track to take down the ringleaders. The white slavers made the mistake of kidnapping the daughter of a US Army colonel whom they thought was a German national. The Colonel learned about the investigation and refused to allow his daughter to be held by the white slavers and victimized so the police could gather intelligence. As it turned out, I learned later, the raid eventually did lead to the disruption of this particular ring because the guys busted talked.
So, when I learned what this film was about I went in with a certain amount of understanding of the subject matter. Let me say here that this film hits the nail on the head in presenting its subject matter and the way young women are victimized by ruthless animals only out to make a buck. (SPOILER) The scenes where they show the young women being made into drug addicts to control them are particularly disturbing to me as I've seen the impact drugs had on young girls working as unlicensed street walkers in Germany (a nation that legalized prostitution to make it "safe"). As disturbing as the film was I am glad I watched it and if I had a daughter (I had all sons) I would make her watch this film when she reached an appropriate age in hopes it would make her more careful in how she behaved when I wasn't around to protect her. This is a film every parent should watch - it is a film every teenaged girl and boy should watch. It's sad, but things like what happens to the girls in this movie go on every day.
Having said that, the next question is, is the movie good?
Well, I've never seen Liam Neeson deliver a bad performance. Even if I didn't like the movie (and he's done a couple turkeys) he has always been superb. No exception here. Sadly, most of the negative comments about this film seem to be from people who don't like action movies. But Neeson elevates this even above the typical action movie. This is a story of family. When I watched Neeson's reaction to what happens to his daughter and his response I imagine it is what Natalie Holloway's daddy wishes he could have done, what every father of a child who has been abducted and brutalized wish they could do.
As a professional soldier and former martial arts instructor I find Neeson's action scenes are superbly executed and realistic. Don't look for a superhero leaping tall buildings with a single bound, but watch an expert, who may not be as young as he once was, doing what he knows best for a good cause. The fights are brutal, ruthless, and efficient, pros doing what they do. Even the violence is understated, brutal, but avoids the spectacular many audience have come to expect. What Neeson does is violent but considering the circumstances and motivation, necessary to save his girl. Great stuff.
The alleged coincidences do not strain or insult the intelligence overmuch, this is an action movie for folks who think. Of course, if you thought "The English Patient" deserved the Best Picture Oscar you'll probably hate this film. Otherwise, it is a don't miss. Neeson brings to the revenge flick empathy and gravitas lacking in other such films.
As I watched the film I thought of that Army colonel fighting Interpol and the German police to save his daughter. I hope he was able to see this film, I think he'd approve.