Even though the original Taken was a straight-up rip-off of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie Commando, I still liked it. Hell, everybody liked it. People were blown away watching Liam Neeson shoot people and generally kick ass across the streets of Paris. It was a sleeper hit that was shot on a budget of $25 million and grossed $226 million at the box office. Being such a gargantuan money maker, Hollywood salivated like a hungry dog and did what they do best: LOL LET’S MAKE AN UNNECESSARY SEQUEL LOL!
Taken 2 occurs an unknown amount of time after the original. Neeson’s frigid ex-wife is having marital problems with her husband, and as a result, their vacation was canceled. Neeson decides to invite them along with him to Istanbul so they can still have their vacation. Yes, you know how it is for millionaires. They are so heavily burdened by their fancy cars, expensive clothes, gourmet food, and VIP treatment, that sometimes they just have to get away from it all. Unfortunately for them, the families of the guys Neeson killed in the first movie are plotting revenge.
This time around, Neeson himself is taken. He and his ex-wife are both kidnapped, and now it is up to their daughter Kim to come to the rescue. Fortunately, Neeson had the foresight to bring a high-tech sock phone along with him, so he can get in touch with Kim. What follows afterward makes no goddamn sense at all. Neeson orders Kim to throw grenades across the rooftops of Istanbul, (obviously, civilian safety is not a high priority) and listen for the sounds of explosions, so he can triangulate his location over the telephone. Um… yeah.
Eventually, Neeson breaks free and wreaks havoc all over the bad guys. He shoots them, blows them up, and punches them to death. The editing is absolutely godawful. But it had to be in order to cover up Neeson’s inability to fight, and his obvious arthritic physical condition. The car chase is mind-blowingly retarded, as well. And let’s not forget how Neeson leaves his ex-wife laying around, unconscious somewhere in Turkey, while he goes on a rampage. The acting, story, and, pretty much everything in this entire movie, were atrocious. Seriously, what the fuck were they thinking? I suppose I should ask what was director Olivier Megaton thinking? Megaton? Well, at least the movie lived up to his name, as this was a fucking bomb.
Unfortunately, with a budget of $45 million and a box office of $365 million, there is bound to be a Taken 3. Perhaps this time, they can take Liam Neeson’s dignity. Although, I doubt he’ll want it back.
Hustle & Flow
Despite Marvel’s insistence that Terrence Howard is “difficult to work with,” the guy manages to find a lot of work. A highlight of his filmography is the 2005 film Hustle & Flow. No, it’s not your typical “rapper” movie, and no, it’s not your typical bullshit Hollywood “rags to riches” film, either.
Howard plays a small-time pimp named D-Jay. Yeah, he’s seriously small-time. Only three-hoes on his roster small-time. Regardless, he’s out on the streets every day, busting his ass in the Memphis heat, trying to make a living. The movie is quick to show us that being a pimp isn’t glamorous at all. It’s a lousy, dirty, poor business. For some reason, all those rap songs about the awesomeness of being a pimp doesn’t seem to be true at all! Shocking, I know.
A chance encounter leads D-Jay to believe that he might have what it takes to become a rapper. He works on his flows, mostly centered around his shitty life, and his struggles to pay the rent as a small-timer. Once he hits the recording studio, we are treated to three big musical numbers, each better than the last. The best of them all, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” won an Academy Award. No shit. The Academy is into pimps. I had no idea.
Unlike typical Hollywood drek, everything isn’t all sunshine and roses for D-Jay. His promising career takes an abrupt detour when he tries to get a legitimate rap-star to listen to his demo tape. By the fim’s conclusion, D-Jay hasn’t made it much farther out of his previously bleak situation. The ending is bittersweet in a way, but does leave the viewer with a sense of hope.
The acting in this movie is great. Everyone turns in a fantastic performance, especially Howard, who also performed all the raps. Even Taraji P. Henson, who I normally don’t like, was excellent. The raps themselves are cool. It’s impossible to listen to them and not have a big smile on your face. The movie is mostly a drama, but there are a few moments of levity here and there to lighten things up a bit.
Hustle & Flow is a great movie, and one that deserves to be seen by a wider audience. You don’t have to like rap to enjoy this movie. It isn’t about that. It’s a fascinating character study about the struggle of getting out of the hood. It’s about trying your hardest to rise out of terrible circumstances. After all, it’s hard out here for a pimp.