One of Hollywood’s most reliable standbys in the last few years has been The Taken Formula. What is The Taken Formula, you ask? Well, the short version is simply to copy the basic set-up of Taken, the Liam Neeson action picture that turned him into an A-List brawler. But given that Taken was already mimicking several low-grade action pictures starring the industry's Steven Seagals and Chuck Norrises, The Taken Formula is ultimately a bit different.
The ingredients to The Taken Formula are as follows:
-The film must feature a leading man not classically known for being an unbeatable badass, and turning him into an unstoppable fighting machine, preferably one with some sort of black ops background or a sketchy tough-guy origin.
-Somehow, some way, their family must be involved, whether they be kidnapped, or accidentally thrust into the position of helping out.
-The film must occur in an unusual, exotic place to filmgoers.
We’re also rating these films, grading them on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the highest (Taken) and 1 being the lowest (Taken 2).
3 DAYS TO KILL (2014)What’s It About?: A tough government killer is tasked with finding a deadly terrorist while attempting to spend quality time with his teenage daughter.
Where Does It Happen?: In the exact same Paris where Taken takes place, which is apparently where Parisians just sit and wait for Americans to come by and punch them in the face for information.
Is The Family In Danger?: While mother and daughter find themselves in the middle of a shootout, thankfully no one decides to kidnap anyone.
How Convincing Is He?: Kevin Costner plays the killer, and he spends the film looking old and out-of-shape. When it comes down to hand-to-hand combat, he can take an enemy down with a few blows, but he’d much rather just shoot you. He might throw you in front of a train, though.
How Good Is It?: 8. 3 Days To Kill is from Taken co-creator Luc Besson, so it follows the formula to a tee. If you liked seeing Liam Neeson own fools, you’ll enjoy Costner snarkily telling French students that American football is called "real football."
STOLEN (2012)What’s It About?: Former safecracker Will Montgomery is released from prison, only to be tormented by an ex-partner who still wants his cut.
Where Does It Happen?: In sunny New Orleans, where characters frequently need to brush past rambunctious locals to get what they want.
Is The Family In Danger?: Montgomery’s teenage daughter is kidnapped and kept in the trunk of a taxi somewhere in the middle of the city.
How Convincing Is He?: While he doesn’t perform the many martial arts moves available to Liam Neeson, Nicolas Cage still handles his business pretty well, throwing down in the film’s finale. For a safecracker, he’s a pretty good puncher, but for an action hero, he fights like a wuss.
How Good Is It?: 3. Despite a lauded script, this is one of those quickie thrillers that Cage knocks out on a weekend. When he’s not giving a real performance with a dynamic characterization, Cage is ultimately a bit boring to watch, so the real spotlight is on Josh Lucas’ crazy peg-legged villain. There’s some decent chase-and-fight stuff here, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.
ERASED (2012)What’s It About?: Ben Logan, a tech employee with a secret past finds out that his new job doesn’t exist, and that the entire operation is an attempt to lure ex-agents out of hiding.
Where Does It Happen?: Belgium, where those seeking tax benefits thrive like the salmon of Capistrano!
Is The Family In Danger?: Logan has to go on the run with teen daughter Anna, placing both of them in harm’s way.
How Convincing Is He?: Eckhart’s been working heavily on his physique in recent years, and he really gets to test it out here, going toe-to-toe with some gnarly bruisers. As Anna slowly learns, Ben has a fairly familiar skill set.
How Good Is It?: 6. Eckhart makes a decent action hero, and the paranoid hook of the film adds some suspenseful flavor. But the picture never really builds to a meaning of any sort, and the final clash is built on a "clever" twist that’s more of a ridiculous gamble than anything else. But there’s certainly a resemblance between Neeson and Eckhart’s growling threats.
GETAWAY (2013)What’s It About?: Ex-race car driver BRENT MAGNA is forced to take a hellride across the city in order to save his wife.
Where Does It Happen?: In Bulgaria exactly where you’d expect to find a has-been race car driver with a name like BRENT MAGNA.
Is The Family In Danger?: They’ve kidnapped and are torturing Magna’s wife. But Magna also develops something of a father-daughter bond with a young hacker (Selena Gomez) who is also eventually threatened.
How Convincing Is He?: Magna never gets out his car, for the most part, but as a former racing champ in a nice leather jacket who has to maintain his poise and drive fast, he looks handsome and ready for action. There’s danger in Hawke’s intelligence, and the sudden fear that he might decide something "wrong" is the right thing to do.
How Good Is It?: 5, much better than you’d expect. Director Courtney Solomon shoots the cars from all angles and emphasizes that these are practical effects when they can be. And as the fabulously-named Magna, Ethan Hawke is endearingly serious. You’d love to see Magna one day offer Bryan Mills a quicker route into the city.
MISSINGWhat’s It About?: In this ABC TV series, Ex-CIA agent Becca Winstone (Ashley Judd) heads to Rome to find out the secret behind her son’s disappearance, only to learn that her late husband is still alive.
Where Does It Happen?: Beautiful Rome, which even looks great on a TV budget.
Is The Family In Danger?: Becca’s husband faked his own death to avoid detection, but the series is mostly told through Becca’s eyes, so he’s frequently in trouble. And the son’s disappearance is tied to a whole mess of conspiracies.
How Convincing Is She?: Becca isn’t some catsuit-wearing martial artist, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the wispy older woman handle some firepower and hold her own. Slap a gun in Ashley Judd’s hand, and she looks more than capable.
How Good Is It?: 6. ABC only produced ten episodes of this low-rated show, ended on a cliffhanger. It’s reasonably entertaining sub-24 stuff, and the presence of Judd and Bean give the production some professionalism, even if some of the writing leans towards the absurd.