Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Pierre Morel
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Leland Orser, Famke Janssen
(PG-13, 94 min.)
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." George Orwell
Even if his sweetly indulged daughter does not, her retired CIA dad knows it is a dangerous world out there, and he will use all his cunning, expertise, and unplumbed brutality to ferret out the vermin who have abducted her. Exorcize your PC demons once and for all in this guilty pleasure / take no prisoners action film.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) has put his special operations past behind him, taking up a modest residence near to his semi-estranged 17 year old daughter who lives in nearby luxury with his ex-wife and her fabulously wealthy husband. Taking an early retirement, Mills hopes to make up for all those birthdays he’s missed, their only remnants faded photos carefully pasted in an album he touches with a wistful tenderness. For her 17th birthday, after much deliberation, he has chosen Kim (Maggie Grace) a top of the line karaoke machine, hoping to help her fulfill her childhood wish to be a singer.
Her mother Lenore (Famke Janssen) – nor longer the “Lennie” that Bryan once knew - insists Kim’s singing ambitions have long since vanished, her underlying message to let Bryan know just how out of touch with his daughter he really is. Kim whispers a conspiratorial denial in her father’s ear, but his momentary pleasure is swept away by the arrival of another gift, this one from her step dad, an exquisite equine, fully saddled and ready for the resident princess to take on a token ride before the birthday crowd.
The rug is similarly swept from his feet when Mills finds the lunch Kim has invited him to is solely arranged to get his signature permitting her to go on an oversea junket to Paris, supposedly to take in all the museums there. Of course, at the airport he discovers the junket is really a trek across Europe following some rock band, a deception her mother has been fully aware of as well. Apparently, in their well-heeled world, being a seventeen-year-old Euro trek rock groupie is a rite of passage replacing the junior prom and other such outdated cultural vestiges we plebeians still cling to. And after all, Lenore has prearranged luxury hotel accommodations at all the stops, which in her mind, takes care of $ecurity.
Of course, as anyone who has seen the trailers already knows, Kim is in for a shock in Paris, even if her address there is in the better part of town, and it is while she is talking to her father on the specially configured cell phone he has given her for the trip that she and her friend are unceremoniously dragged away by several Albanian sex traffickers.
Up until now, Mills has been a diffident dad, courting his daughter’s favor like a clumsy youth, but that changes instantly now as all his professional instincts boot up. From the snatches of conversation the cell phone has recorded he is able to isolate the speakers as Bosnians, and he uses all his former contacts to find out more. The most damning information is the expiration date on such abductions – 96 hours – and he wastes no time on niceties in his relentless battle against time.
Here is where the true appeal (or guilty pleasure if you will) comes in. First of all, these guys are evil, kidnapping innocent girls, drugging them, and siphoning them off into the super sleazy world of sex trade. They are beyond despicable, not subject to any qualifying nuance or rationale. What a relief to have some new bad boys in town to replace the stale politically correct stereotypes. No more unhinged military types (Deja Vu), vengeful Israelis (Munich), self-serving colonials (Before the Rains), fat capitalists (Inside Man), corporate criminals (Michael Clayton), rogue CIA agents (The Bourne Ultimatum), greedy drug companies (The Constant Gardener), or corrupt police (Changeling).
And we have at least two scenes where Mills puts paid to any equivocation we have had in defining the appropriate ways in which to extract information from suspects, especially since one is not even the suspect, but his well-meaning wife, who has just served Mills a very nice little French dinner.
No, this is not a “thinking man’s vigilante film” like The Brave One or a brooding portrayal of the sex trade as in Eastern Promises. It is a churning gut level embodiment of the rage we quell in our over-analyzed civilization, where we are lectured into numb inaction in the face of gaping evil and calculated malevolence.
Sam is Mills’ French contact, once in special operations, but now “retired” to a desk job. He tries to help his friend out with some information, but then feels his has to restrain him, as Mills has left a rather messy trail of bodies in his wake. Mills is having none of it, however, and his visit to Sam’s comfortable apartment is not really a social one. Sam’s sweet wife asks him to stay for dinner, chattering away about their cozy life with Sam now behind a desk. She, but not Mills, seems unaware of the secret source of that coziness.
We can perhaps forgive Mills for not sitting down for a nice chit chat at the time, even for ignoring the good French cooking offered, but his thank you to the cook is certainly not according to Emily Post. How exquisitely brazen nonetheless.
Let us partake of the dinner he refuses. I’ve dug into my own Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook to find this simple and delicious Parisian Chicken, smothered in a creamy mushroom wine sauce.
3-ounces fresh black truffles, wiped clean, and thinly sliced
(or Portobello or other mushrooms of your choice)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon mined garlic
4 to 6 medium chicken breasts
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup dairy sour cream
1/2 cup Madeira or dry sherry
Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, in an 11x 7 x 11/2 inch baking dish. Sauté the truffle or mushroom slices in the olive oil with the minced garlic until tender. Combine with the other ingredients and pour over the chicken. Sprinkle generously with paprika. Bake at 350 about 1 to 1 1/4 hours or till tender. Serve with hot fluffy rice,
Recipe Source: Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook