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Friday, March 31, 2017

Tried To Think Of A Smarter Headline But The Idea Was #Taken #NBC #3weekroundup

Tried To Think Of A Smarter Headline But The Idea Was #Taken #NBC #3weekroundup

All Pictures Courtesy of NBC

Another lame attempt from me to be kitsch-funny? You know what that means. It's time for another three-week roundup review of a new series. On deck today we have NBC's Taken. So, does the series based on the hit movie capture your fancy, or does it not have the skills to keep your attention? Read more to find out.

NBC's Taken (#Taken), as said, is based on the film franchise of the same name starring Liam Neeson and one of my many Hollywood crushes, Maggie Grace. While we sadly won't see Maggie, we do see a much younger Brian in this prequel series from Taken creator Luc Besson. Hoping to translate the driving verve of the film to the small screen, the show describes itself as “showing us just how Brian got those particular set of skills” used in the films to rescue his daughter and ex-wife before she was brutally murdered in the third installment. Oh, spoiler alert, I guess. Anyway, here we pick up with what looks like a thirty-something Bryan Mills played by Clive Standen. Starting almost immediately with the kick-assery, he is on a train with a younger girl who happens to be his sister. A man stares at his sister as she is beautiful but young. He says something to the guy to warn him off.

Suddenly, he sees two men enter their train car and knows they're up to no good. He whispers how she is supposed to do something that makes a distraction while he goes to check on this guy. If he yells her name she is supposed to get beneath the seats for protection. Note: women, children, and tough guys never follow instructions here. Never! Wimpy men will do it, though. But no woman, scared, strong or otherwise ever listens to the person who deals with dangerous people on the daily. And here it is no different. It's a cliché, but because it shows a woman's strength, it is acceptable. Naturally, the guys are bad, they try shooting her, Bryan kicks butt and saves everyone on the train by taking out the two guys. Everyone except his sister who is standing out in the center aisle while everyone else reacts in a panic. Bryan holds her dead body in his hand as the guy who had been staring at her hands Bryan the card she had been writing for their parents. Now that I think about it, I can't remember why she was writing the card, though I think it was for their anniversary.

Anyway, he already suspects that this was no random terrorist attack, a theory strengthened by the sudden appearance of a surveillance vehicle outside of his parents' house on the day of the funeral. He chases them away but they escape. He knows that he must then get as far from his parents as he can and goes back to his own home.

Meanwhile, a secret group is keeping watch over him. Run by Christina Hart played by Jennifer Beals, the group discovers that the people who posed as terrorists and shot Bryan's sister were associates of a very violent drug cartel boss that they've chased for the last few years. Instead of warning Bryan of this, they are willing to use him as bait to lure out the boss and take him alive. Why? Though they've had many chances to kill him, they need him alive because he is working with a conglomerate of other terrorist cells around the world and they need him to talk, otherwise they'll never find the other terrorists.

As soon as Bryan gets home, this secret group sends out a small team to keep watch over him, knowing that the big baddie terrorist they want has issued some thing about capturing Bryan or killing him. But our guy is too clever not to know this plan. He sits at home, in the dark, with guns in hand just waiting for some punks to show up so he can Dirty-Harry their asses. And they do, and he does. He shoots all of them, fatally killing one or two and badly wounding two more. He gets close enough to one of them to interrogate them face to face, and steal their phone. As it just so happens, that guy seems to be the leader of the group for a reason I'll tell you in a second. Bryan must get the heck out of there and quick as who knows more will come. Meanwhile, the secret group watching him searches his now-abandoned place and sees the dead guy in the back all so they can say this line: “Guy's got skills.” And we all grin and secretly whisper either to ourselves or fellow in-house viewer, “A particular set.”

Bryan escapes to a motel which is cool because the secret group can still track him by listening to his phone calls, but the terrorists/cartel baddies can't. Until Bryan calls one of the other guys associated with his past mission. See, the whole reason that our hero's sister was killed is because Bryan and a team of military officers raided a complex a few years back in order to save a journalist or CIA operative or somebody. The detail is only semi-important. What is important is that the cartel leader's son was in that complex and held a gun to the head of the guy Bryan and his team were there to save. Naturally, Bryan killed him and became a hero. Ever since then, the cartel boss has wanted revenge.
Back in the motel, Bryan dares call the guy they saved on that mission and tells him to take his daughter and leave now because they'll be coming for him. The guy argues a little about how he doesn't want to and Bryan says that some guys had come to his place and they'll definitely be coming for him. The guy says OK.

And then things turn because the next thing Bryan knows, that phone he stole from the meanie he killed is buzzing with a text from the guy he just called to warn. The text is about the man being stunned that Mills is still alive. Just to test that he isn't crazy, Bryan texts the saved journalist/CIA guy to find out where “Bryan Mills” is right now so they can go and take care of it. He gets a call back from the man he just warned where he tells the man where he is. The man then texts the baddie's phone the address. It doesn't take long for Mills to show up to the man's parking garage and bitch-slap him a few times, “You told Harpo to beat me? How long have you been working for them?” And the guy is all repentant and saying, you don't know what they said they'd do to my daughter.

Well, some more craziness happens which winds Mills up in a trap and knocked unconscious. He awakes to find himself dangling from a chain with his hands cuffed above his head, torture-style. In the center of a barn, he hangs as armed guards stand around him while a shadowy figure approaches. And this is when I realize that I've either been watching too much TV or this was an overly simple plot or both as I knew who the cartel boss was all along. See, I should've mentioned earlier that the boss was rarely ever seen full-frontal-face, so he could, in theory, walk around public without notice. However, I noticed him right away as he is a bit actor who has been in tons of projects both for the big and small screen. Hardly a star, you would recognize his face if you were paying attention in any meaningful capacity. By now, you've guessed my hint and know that the cartel guy who emerges from the shadows is the same guy Bryan saw eyeing his sister on the train.

Meanwhile, outside the barn, the secretive group is watching everything going on and Jennifer Beals' character has already put together a team to go in and take down the cartel guy. So while the big baddie is explaining how he wanted Bryan to feel the pain he felt by taking away someone special to him, a special forces team is moving in with precision. Before the baddie knows it, Bryan is off his chains, all of his lower-level men have been shot dead or taken out by other means, and Mills is knelt over him about to kill him. He laughs because Mills is the only one who doesn't know that they can't kill him because they need him to talk, remember. But Bryan Mills doesn't care because Bryan Mills is that guy. He tries killing him anyway and is shot by the special forces secretive group.

Part Of The Team

He awakes to a bed where Beals' character lords over him. Hardly a lethal shot, he'll be recovered from the flesh wound in a week or two. But she invites him to join their secret special group whose name they either didn't mention or I was too distracted writing something else to hear. All I know is that similar to Scandal's B6-13 or the MIB or MacGuyver, this team does some of the heaviest espionage and tactical lifting but the bigger, initialed agencies—CIA, FBI, NSA—take the credit. She says that he is a natural-born protector and he agrees and embarks on this new odyssey.

Episode two involves the not-so-mysterious death of a senator who collapses from a heart attack that is suddenly made mysterious by one of Beals' (yes, I'm just going to call her by her real name for the rest of the review) old CIA contacts. The woman is nervous and scared because she knows the secret, but she has to keep moving because whoever killed the senator is hunting her down, too. Inclined to believe her friend, Beals takes a clandestine meeting with her where Bryan is supposed to run sniper-cover, in case the situation gets out of hand and it is a trick. Things go awry when one of the operatives that had been following the woman shoots her dead and her last word is "fort."

Going off of that and off of the guy that Bryan took out and killed (he has a bad habit of killing dudes), they manage to trick two undercover spies posed as hospital staff into trying to kill Bryan, thinking he's the captured team member that will turn. But Bryan gets them and questions them and whatnot. They also talk to the dead woman's husband and he mentions something about fortunado which he thought was a restaurant. Going off that, they quickly solve the case that another political figure/business leader had the senator killed with some kind of new bio-weapon that they also inject him with and threaten to let him die unless he gives a full confession. Bryan has killed a lot of people and he gets a slap on the wrist for that before truly bonding with the rest of the team.

Episode three takes a current-day plot of terrorism and turns it on its head. A Muslim man on a national watch-list suddenly goes missing while playing soccer with his son one day. Believed to be radicalized, they expect a national threat, possibly in D.C., in no time at all. Bryan and the team hop to finding him, first going to visit the wife and child. The young boy is damaged by all of it as he now says he hates America because of the way they treat his father and how they took him. Meanwhile, the guy is actually strapped down with a bomb vest and is set to go off after a little while. But in luck, his son was recording himself doing his soccer moves and playing (for later study), and caught his father's kidnapping in the background. They not only have a license plate but a blurry picture of the guys that took him.

As it turns out, the guys that took the man are actually white nationalists; one of them was even an FBI hero who was hailed nationally for stopping a serial killer. In order to get him to tell them where they hid the Muslim man, they put him in a locked room with his captured serial killer. It's pretty cool. They get to the location but then have to figure out how they're going to defuse the bomb. So, the Muslim guy and Bryan start running around this building looking for a way to save this man. Bryan finally realizes that if they jump into water, it'll fry the circuits and the bomb will defuse. They get to a drain at the very bottom of the building and jump into the water and the day is saved and the people are saved and everything is OK. When Bryan returns to the man and his son, the son is reluctant to shake Bryan's hand but he does and gives him a child's “I'm sorry, mister” look that Dennis the Menace would occasionally give to Mr. Wilson. The boy's and his father's belief in America is now restored.

Meanwhile, Beals has gone to the doctor to discover that she has a grape-sized mass in her brain that could be cancer. She discovers that, in her empty life, she has no one to write down as the contact person for if she has to go into surgery. She goes to the husband/widower of her friend who got killed in episode two and they start to form a bond. It is unclear how much of a relationship, if any, they had prior to this. For me, something doesn't sit right about this man. Maybe he'll just be an innocuous love interest for her so that she isn't screwing some of the guys (and gals) under her command, or maybe he will end up being a traitor. Either way, it's intriguing.

What's my grade? I give it a B. As with most networks, it is another procedural, case-a-week format which does work here and leans credence to the character continuing to develop the particular set of skills. However, it can get boring and blend into the gamut of other cop/spy shows with similar premises. With Luc Besson there as producer, it does have a Taken-the-film feel to it while still maintaining a certain TV show lingo more common to viewers, but it does have its own style, too.
As far as characters go, you know everyone's motivations and Clive Standen is a worthy predecessor(?) to Liam Neeson's older, more grizzled character, but there is something missing here. Where Neeson had charm, Clive hasn't shown much yet. Yes, his sister's friend, a black woman who totally has the hots for him, does give him the opportunity to show some kind of charming oaf act that Neeson exhibited when around Lenore. However, during those scenes, you are more inclined to think of when or if she'll die to make room for Lenore who you know will some day soon make an appearance on the show.

Should you be watching? Die-hard fans of the Taken series won't be disappointed with this new, younger prequel even if their whole fascination with the film was seeing an older guy kicking butt. Standen displays the chiseled ire and curmudgeonliness of an older man and looks good doing it. However, if you are not a fan of the films or are a casual TV watcher and want more dramatic less-predictable fare, I would say you might find more engaging story elsewhere.

What do you think? Have you heard of Taken? If not, do you think you'll tune in now? If you have seen it, how do you feel? Is it a worthy addition to the Taken franchise, or in desperate need of re-tooling? And what do you think of that guy that Beals' character is talking to? As always, let me know in the comments below.

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary to premiere sometime this winter on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, “Has Jack been kidnapped?”
'No, no, Jack's fine. You, on the other hand... I'm gonna have to stab you.'

P.S. You probably don't know what that comes from and are either racking your brain trying to figure out if it comes from TV, film, or a novel, or if I completely made it up just to mess with you. If you were Bryan Mills you'd already have the skills to figure that. Shame you're neither version of Bryan Mills. I'll think of a better, much more clever sign-off next time... or will I? Chances are good that I won't, but we'll see.

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