Imagine the first Bourne movie - superhuman killing machine on journey of self-discovery. Replace the douchey motivation with "baddies kidnapped my daughter into sex slavery and must die". It is much more gratifying to watch 90 minutes of Liam Neeson running around Paris killing people with grim determination.
Don't let the movie's bad cream of the crop tomatometer fool you - hidden in there are positives from Ken Turan, David Edelstein and the critics from SFChron, Salon, Philly Inquirer, WaPo, and Chicago Tribune.
Besides, you really shouldn't care what Roger Ebert says, ever. He gave The Phantom Menace a thumbs up. He also wrote this in his Taken review:
The bottom line is, if you can't wait for the next "Bourne" thriller, well, you don't have to. I can easily wait, but Truth in Reviewing compels me to confess that if the movie I was describing in the first paragraph sounded as if you'd like this, you probably will.That second sentence is complete garbage. What he's saying is "this is a well-done if implausible action movie", but with less coherence and more disdain. And that's really what's going on in the bad reviews of Taken.
Good B-movies elicit unfair critical disdain. No critic liked film noir or Hitchcock until the French did. Like Ebert, Taken's bad reviews tend to be "I'm above trash like this" bullshit. The reviews are all "oh, it's so violent" "it's so unrealistic" handwringing bullshit.
The usually dependable Manohla Dargis gives us snoot with a little racism. Discussing Luc Besson (Taken's producer/co-writer):
the genre movies that carry his brand tend to be predictably homogeneous, with more or less the same look (glossy), sound (blaring) and pace (relentless). That more or less describes “Taken,” as well as innumerable action flicks from Hollywood to Hong KongYeah, that dreary Asian horde - all alike. I don't understand how you can be the Times critic and be so casually dismissive of so many films with such a rich history.
But anyway, Taken is great. I had never seen any of the Besson-related action films, but now it may be time to see the Transporter movies.