Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lessons Taken

  The movie ‘Taken 2’ comes out next week and I’m eagerly looking forward to it. I went to see the first ‘Taken’ over 4 years ago and thought it was one of the better action films I’d seen, but since it has taken a place in the movie rotation on the FX network, I’ve gotten to see it at least once a month over the past year and it just keeps getting better and better to watch. Liam Neeson is a bit old to be an action star, but after the first 30 or so minutes waiting for ex special ops agent Bryan Mills’ daughter to get kidnapped in Paris by a group of Albanian human traffickers, the action is virtually non-stop.

  Neeson pursues the Albanian kidnapping gang from the Paris airport to their stashes of prostitutes on the streets, construction sites, and their headquarters in downtown Paris, leaving destruction and dead bodies in his wake. Even when the action temporarily dies down, the dialog is stellar with sudden bursts of incredible violence. When Liam is rebuffed asking his Paris police detective friend Jean-Claude for help in finding his daughter, he unexpectedly shows up at his house for dinner and tells him and his wife about how he found one of the Albanian safe houses and asks Jean-Claude if he is involved in the bribes that are paid to the Paris police. Jean Claude says “My salary is X. My expenses are Y. As long as my family is provided for, I do not care where the difference comes from. That is my entire involvement!” After some more dialog, Jean-Claude tries to shoot Liam with the gun he keeps hidden in the bathroom only to find out that Neeson had already emptied the bullets out of the gun. Out of the blue, Neeson pulls his gun, shoots Jean-Claude’s wife in the arm and while she is screaming he says “It's a flesh wound! But if you don't get me what I need, the last thing you'll see before I make your children orphans is the bullet I put between her eyes.

  I’ve casually asked acquaintances the past few weeks if they had seen Taken in the past few weeks and to a person, everyone loved it and knows many of the quotes from it. I think that the movie has attained an iconic or cult status and part of the reason is that the movie has a lot of lessons we can learn with careful study.

  When Neeson tries to get close enough to one of the Albanian pimps to plant a bug on him, he strikes up a protracted conversation with one of the prostitutes. When the pimp comes over to ask him what he is doing, Neeson tells him that he was trying to negotiate the price and the pimp says, ‘The price is the price’.

Daisy learns...
The price is the price!
  I’m not advocating we model our economy after a movie depiction of an Albanian prostitution ring, but it would be nice when shopping if ‘the price was the price’ more often. When my son Matt was trying to find out how much it would cost for them to attend a particular university 2 years ago the college recruiters would tell him how much money he would get in scholarships and financial aid, never how much money he would actually have to spend to attend the college. Ben is looking at colleges and the process is repeating itself all over again. No wonder so many people are in so much college debt.

  I received my own lesson in hidden pricing yesterday when I went to Ben’s Tires to get oil changes on my Kia Rio as I do every 6 or 7 weeks. I give the owner my car key, have a cup of coffee and a donut, watch whatever is on the TV, get my car, pay my $26.64, and I’m back home in an hour. Kathy knew I was going to get my oil changed this week and found a coupon for a $20.95 oil change in the local paper from Ben’s Tire. I got my oil changed and when it was time to pay I gave the mechanic my coupon and he said “That’ll be $25.63”. I told him I had a coupon for a $20.95 oil change and he told me that I still had to pay the oil disposal fee, supplies fee, and the sales tax. In the end I saved a total of $1.01 (6 cents short of a Dollar Tree E-Z Cake in a Cup’). I’m not upset with Ben’s Tire since I go there because I trust them, but I wish there coupon just said ‘$1 off’ so I would have known what to expect.

Work Ethic
  Jean-Claude initially dismisses Neeson’s request for help by claiming he has no authority to help saying “I sit behind a desk now. I take my orders from someone who sits behind a bigger desk.” Neeson accepts this but he knows that Jean-Claude has used his desk job as an excuse to get soft and he uses this knowledge when he removes the bullets from the gun in Jean-Claude’s apartment. When Jean-Claude attempts to shoot Neeson with the empty gun, Neeson tosses the bullets at him saying “That's what happens when you sit behind a desk! You forget things! Like the weight in the hand of a gun that's loaded and one that's not!” It is a great lesson in the value of hard work and continually honing your skills that every young person should be taught.

Negotiation Skills
  At the climax of the film, Neeson breaks into the stateroom on the boat where his daughter is held at knifepoint by Sheik Raman (who has purchased her at auction). After a tense silence the sheik says “We can nego..”, whereupon Liam Neeson shoots him in the head, resolving the negotiations in his favor and providing a reminder of the classic proverb “Never bring a knife to a gun fight”.

  I don’t have any daughters but if I did I’d make them watch this movie often to remind them that the only reason Neeson’s daughter Kim survived long enough to be found was that she was pure and could fetch a premium price. The watchful eye can’t fail to see the comparison to her friend Amanda whose promiscuous ways led to her only having a scene as a corpse after being taken.

  I’ve been getting so amped up just thinking about ‘Taken’ that I’m not sure the sequel could ever live up to my expectations, but since the movie's iconic stature owes more to it's dialog and incredible amount of classics lines than the action, I have my hopes that it can be even better. Even if it does fall short, it won’t make the original movie anything less than the classic it has become.

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