The Netflix Crime Revenge Thriller That Changed Its Lead Into An Action Star

By Zack Zagranis | Published

Some action movies are so iconic that they create their own subgenre—Under Seige is Die Hard on a boat, the Karate Kid is Rocky with martial arts, etc. Taken is one of those movies.

The 2008 thriller not only spawned a ton of copycats but was also responsible for turning Liam Neeson into a bona fide action star. You can stream Taken right now on Netflix, and the good news is, you don’t need a “very particular set of skills” to enjoy it.

Taken Turned Liam Neeson Into An Action-Star

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Taken stars Neeson as ex-CIA agent and Green Beret Bryan Mills. Mills is forced to shake off the cobwebs and spring back into action when his 17-year-old daughter Kim is kidnapped by a sex trafficking ring while following U2 around Europe. What follows is a series of encounters meant to highlight just what a one-man killing machine Bryan is.

Taken, while featuring English dialogue almost exclusively, is technically a French production. The film was written by Luc Besson the man behind the 1994 Jean Reno action classic The ProfessionalLeon if you’re nasty—as well as frequent Besson collaborator Robert Mark Kamen. Taken was produced by French company EuropaCorp and distributed internationally by 20th Century Fox.

Jeff Bridges Was Originally Cast To Play The Lead

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Besson pitched the idea for Taken to his former director of photography, Pierre Morel, one night over dinner. The idea of a father figure fighting to protect his daughter resonated with Morel who immediately agreed to direct the film. Jeff Bridges was the first actor chosen to play the part of Bryan Mills but had to drop out.

Luckily, Liam Neeson was there to pick up Jeff Bridges’ slack and became an action star in the process. As good as Liam Neeson is, however, he can’t do everything himself, and as a result, Morel stacked Taken with a top-notch cast to support the famous Irishman.

In addition to Neeson, Taken stars Famke Janssen as Mills’ estranged ex-wife Lenore and Maggie Grace as his daughter who gets taken. Leland Orser, Jon Gries, and Holly Valance also make appearances.

Liam Neeson Thought The Movie Would Bomb

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Liam Neeson accepted the role, thinking that if nothing else, he would at least get to spend a few months in Paris and get some free Karate lessons. Truth be told, Neeson didn’t really expect the film to perform well at all but was excited to play something different than the usual movie roles he was offered. To make the movie more authentic, Liam Neeson was trained by former Special Air Service soldier Mick Gould, who makes a living teaching actors how to fight in close quarters.

Performed Many Of His Own Stunts

Despite being rated PG-13, Bryan Mills kills 35 people over the course of Taken‘s 90-minute runtime, making it quite the auspicious action debut for Neeson. In addition to learning some sweet karate movies for the film, Neeson also performed many of the stunts in Taken himself. Neeson’s commitment to the physical side of moviemaking is especially impressive given that the actor was 55 years old when he started his second career as an action star.

Taken Garnered Massive Box Office Success

Taken was released on February 27, 2008, in its native France while the USA didn’t get the film until almost a year later in January of 2009. When it finally did get to America, the movie did an impressive $145 million at the box office. When added to the $81.8 million Taken grossed in other territories, that makes for a combined worldwide total of $226.8 million over its theatrical run.

Not bad for a film with a budget of only $25 million. Critics viewed Taken as a well-made action vehicle with not a lot of brains under the hood. Audiences, on the other hand, loved it. The movie scratched a particular itch in the pop culture zeitgeist that as previously mentioned, led to a slew of similar action movies.

Taken Becomes A Franchise

John Wick may have overtaken Bryan Mills as the middle-aged action protagonist of choice, but Liam Neeson was playing a retired killer dragged out of his new life and back into the underworld he escaped a good five years before Keanu Reeves. Taken walked so that John Wick could run.

Taken spawned two sequels, the cleverly named Taken 2 (2012) and Taken 3 (2014), as well as a television series also named Taken (2017). Despite that, the movie’s single biggest legacy is Liam Neeson’s “Taken” speech. You know, the one with, “I don’t have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you…”

Now Streaming On Netflix

That speech became one of those monologues that transcended mere dialogue to become a part of our very societal consciousness. For a while, every movie and TV show had a scene paying homage to or straight-up parodying Liam Neeson’s Taken speech.

If you want to see the speech for yourself or you just want to watch Liam Neeson being a badass for 90 minutes straight, Taken is streaming on Netflix right now.