Justice and mercy take a beating as Liam Neeson punches and shoots his way to his daughter’s freedom in the 2008 movie Taken. Neeson stars as Brian Mills, an ex-CIA agent whose daughter is kidnapped by human traffickers.

Taken relies heavily on our sense of justice…or is it our desire for revenge – that bad people deserve bad things to happen to them. Thus, there is a horrible crime with horrible perpetrators, a helpless victim and a driven, capable rescuer, and the rescuer has the skills to deliver the kind of justice the law may not provide. Given the stakes, why wait for the legal system to catch up when justice is readily available in a handgun? These people are really evil so it seems appropriate that Mills destroy them, which he does with all manner of guns, vehicles and other weapons.

I found myself thinking, “You know what, if those people did that to a daughter of mine I would want someone to make them pay. They would be getting what they deserve.” It seemed appropriate that such scum should receive such treatment. With thrills a-plenty as the bad guys get their rewards, I connected easily with the lead character’s plight. Liam Neeson’s Mills is a force that cannot be reckoned with and the film clips along at a staggering pace.

One of the most disturbing moments in the film though was when Mills extracts information from one of the men involved. The bound man is tortured for information in a long drawn out scene which ends with Mills electrocuting him having succeeded with the extraction. And it is here that the film’s boldest statement on justice is made: No mercy. Ever. Mills could have turned him over to authorities for processing but there was no room for this in Mills’ sense of justice as he searches for his daughter.

From this point on the film snowballs, the body count mounts and it’s really anything goes, an all-out assault as Mills follows the leads to the very top. And the depiction of the father’s love for his daughter was satisfyingly touching. Mills went to extreme lengths to save her from the indignity of her enslavement and I was reminded of how God spared no expense to bring me out of the slavery of sin and make me His child, through a most violent means – the death of His son Jesus. This good news frees people from seeking revenge in order to seek justice (including judicial punishment), forgiveness, reconciliation, as difficult as that may be.

Human sex-trafficking is among the most disgusting crimes in the world. Taken makes this clear though it at times seems to serve as a vehicle for a revenge film. Yet something must be said of the way that Mills goes beyond the law to bring the perps to ‘justice’: perhaps if the one who was not shown mercy, had been shown mercy. Maybe he would have repented. Who knows how his life may have turned out? Instead, the saviour in Taken leaves him to fry in a dark basement. There can be no greater contrast with the Lord Jesus who conquers sin by dying in the place of sinners for sinners, and not completely destroying them…even if they thoroughly deserve it.

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