This week Richard Curtis favourites adopt roles not normally associated with the British stars.

Writer Luc Besson’s new film Taken follows an ex-CIA agent who has 96 hours to save his daughter after she is kidnapped by sex traffickers in Paris. There’s nothing original about that then…except Liam Neeson of course.

After wasting half an hour convincing the audience how lovely a father our hero is, director Pierre Morel sends spoilt daughter (played by trivial Maggie Grace) to learn a valid lesson: “The world (i.e. Europe) is a dangerous place”. She isn’t off the plane five minutes before she’s ‘taken’. Oh no!

The film basically purports that any girl travelling Europe alone will probably get abducted, pumped with heroin and sold off to rich Albanians before they have time to straighten their hair. That’s Hollywood stereotyping for you! Daddy then changes from middle-aged loser one moment to brutal man on a revenge-mission the next.

The unyielding pursuit to shoot or break the neck of every Albanian he meets quickly borders on xenophobic, but once it gets going Taken delivers a persistent pace and an enjoyable middle section.

At least Liam Neeson makes it watchable, and his believable performance will engage most viewers. It’s just a shame he couldn’t have stretched his acting muscle in something with more depth.

Luckily, Neeson recently signed up to play Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s biopic, aptly named Lincoln. The hopes of an Oscar are not over yet. But for a moment there it may have been worth turning the gun on himself.

Also in cinemas is the new adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. Another Love Actually star, and Curtis Favourite favourite, Emma Thompson, excels as the twisted Lady Marchmain and supports a trio of rising British stars. The pre-WWII drama is based on Evelyn Waugh’s acclaimed novel and tells the evocative story of Charles Ryder’s entrancement with the noble Marchmain family.

Or if you prefer world cinema, from this Friday you can see Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah at the Duke of York. Based on the Italian best seller, the film provides a look at the cruel reality endured by the residents of Naples by the Commora mafia. Fans of the visceral will enjoy this film, even if style at times overrides content.

Categories: Theatre

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