"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."
The film: If anyone would have claimed a year ago that Liam Neeson would star in an action thriller that causes worldwide furor and big cash at the box office, hardly anybody would have believed in that. Then Taken hit the spot. After it was already released in some countries inside and outside Europe in the first half of 2008 the film had its theatrical release in the US on January 30th, 2009. Although it was available on the Internet illegally for months prior to the US-start, Taken scored big at the box office, making 144 million Dollars, generating 220 million worldwide. It isn't common that one can be happy about the financial success of a film but it's different with Taken because here the ratio to quality fits. It's a great pleasure to follow Liam Neeson (of whom only a minority of film goers would have thought he'd be capable of performing such a role) on his tour-de-force. People report of moments and lines they cheered about multiple times throughout the film. What helps is the uncompromising production that hits even though there is no big, bloody mess to witness.
The versions: Since Taken was produced in Europe many countries got the original uncut version of the film to show in theaters. Only Britain and the US mark an exception. In England, cuts were made to assure the BBFC 15-rating. Later, the uncut version was put out on DVD and Blu-ray, being advertised as Harder Cut.
In the US there's a similar situation. Taken would have clearly received an R-rating by the MPAA so it had to be censored in order to secure the PG-13 rating which was financially more attractive. On DVD and Blu-ray one can purchase the original uncut version of the movie, labeled as Extended Cut. As a matter of fact the US-DVD has the theatrical version on board as well in its bonus features.
The censorships for the theatrical release are clearly motivated at the MPAA standards. It's a relative high amount of cuts but often with only a few seconds of frames being removed. The fights are choreographed and edited so fast it doesn't even show up for people not knowing the uncut form of the film. The biggest and most noticeable change between the two versions is the scene where Bryan tortures Marko to get information. This has been shot alternatively since one could have anticipated that this scene would provoke the R-rating.
Comparison between the censored US-theatrical version (PG-13) and the uncut Extended Cut (equivalent to the original uncut version)
54 cuts = 180,28 respectively approx. 3 minutes 1 second
0:23:59: Bryan calls Lenore in the middle of the night while she's lying in bed. A short dialogue follows.
Bryan: "It's me. Has Kim called you?"
Lenore: "Bryan, she's 17, she's in Paris, give her some space. She'll call. Take a sleeping pill, have a drink or something. Good night."
Bryan: "Good night."
0:46:36: Bryan is seen walking through the container in an additional shot.
0:46:42: Another trivial change. Bryan can be seen in a closer shot.
0:46:51: The extended cut shows the arm of the young girl. One can clearly see multiple stitches obviously resulting from heroine injections. Not very helpful if you want a PG-13.
0:47:05: Bryan looks into three more cabins and witnesses three prostitutes that all serve a “customer”. There's nothing really explicit here but it was obviously enough to be cut out for the rating.
0:48:05: Bryan punches his enemy in the face for another time. One can clearly hear a crack and the guy moaning. He touches his nose so one can assume that it's broken.
0:48:07: While the gangster is unconscious and falls to the ground in the PG-13-version while Bryan continues on his way, the viewer misses that Bryan previously hit the man on his knees, punching his knee into the man's face followed by two hard punches.
PG-13: 0:47:39: In the theatrical version Bryan takes the gun lying on the floor. The extended cut doesn't contain that.
+ 1,28 Sec.
0:48:21: The Albanian shoots a prostitute running in his way by accident. Two bloody gunshot wounds can be seen in her chest. She falls to the ground screaming.
0:48:23: While Bryan shoots three times at the gangster and two bloody hits are visible in his chest area, the theatrical cut only shows one shot. The bad guy also falls to the ground earlier.
1:02:06: The last frames are missing when Bryan stabs the knife into his enemy's chest. Typical MPAA censorship.
1:02:08: Bryan cuts into the arm of his opponent leaving a small bloody scar. The theatrical version offers here an alternative shot of Bryan showing nothing explicit at all. This isn't really noticeable though.
No time difference
1:02:09: Bryan stabs another man in the chest. Again the PG 13-cut has some alternative frames.
1:02:11: Bryan shoots the Arabian a second time. The man falls against a cupboard having two gunshot wounds in his chest. The theatrical version works yet again with some alternate material. In fact this scene is more censored than the time difference points out. One can see that the man has two exit wounds, too, though. Where would the second one come from in the theatrical version?
1:02:14: The gangster pulls out his gun in the extended cut but Bryan falls to the ground and shoots the man with four shots. Again, one can see a bloody shot wound.
1:02:22: Bryan is shown one more time pointing his gun at the three guys. Then, three shots can be heard. The PG 13-cut not only cuts away faster but also provides the viewer with only one audible gunshot.
1:02:32: Both versions have alternate material here. The theatrical version extends some frames of a shot and is more harmless. The extended cut shows how Bryan shoots into the guy's neck and a bloody wound is visible.
1:02:35: The extended cut shows Bryan shooting total three times at the guy running down the stairs. He hits his knee and can then be seen shooting two more times at the guy lying offscreen.
1:02:40: Yet again, alternate material is used. Bryan shoots three times at the fat guy who then falls to the ground having exit wounds in his chest. The PG-13-cut only has one gunshot and a more harmless range of shots.
1:03:17: A close-up of dead Amanda's face is missing.
1:03:21: This scene is nearly identical in both cuts. Or so it seems. The essence of the difference is that the extended cut shows Amandas arm with stitches followed by a shot of the heroine needle. Bryan looks desperately at the dead Amanda and touches her face.
Extended Cut: 1:03:57: Here's the biggest difference between both versions: the torture scene. To give a good overview this scene was summarized.
Viewers in US-cinemas only got a trimmed and toned down version of the scene. That begins with the way in that Bryan attaches the electricity to Marko, hereby using the metal chair he's sitting on. Furthermore some shots of Marko screaming and suffering were removed, other shots were trimmed.
In the extended cut Bryan “welcomes” Marko by punching him in the face and stabbing two nails into his legs for the attachment of the electricity. Generally speaking this scene is way more intense and harder than in its theatrical version.
1:12:51: The offered woman is seen in the middle of the room, Bryan looks at her. This is followed by another shot of the woman.
1:13:04: The process of the purchase is longer in the extended cut. The theatrical version omits a shot of the half naked woman.
1:16:46: Bryan chokes St. Clair's henchman a bit longer followed by an audible crack of his neck.
1:16:59: Bryan punches twice with the fire extinguisher. This is shown in a close-up.
1:17:20: Bryan and his enemy struggle longer in which direction the gun should point.
1:17:30: The henchman of St. Clair wants opens the door and gets shot immediately by Bryan. The theatrical version shows St. Clair while the gunshot can just be heard offscreen.
1:17:44: Saint Clair says: "You have no idea!". Bryan shoots into St. Clairs other shoulder.
1:17:51: When Bryan shoots St. Clair for the third time one can see the bloody wound in his leg. The theatrical cut only shows him falling to the ground quite fast without showing any detail.
1:18:08: The PG-13-version shows Bryan shooting once at St. Clair. However, he originally shoots five times. This can be seen in the extended cut.
1:19:32: Bryan slams the car door against the head of the chauffeur.
1:21:45: Bryan kicks the bald man with his knee and gives him a fast punch.
1:22:14: The Arab is slammed against a sink with his head, falling to the ground unconsciuously.
1:22:22: Bryan punches his enemy once more.
1:22:37: In both versions Bryan punches his gun in the face of the enemy but in a different way. The extended cut offers a close-up, the PG-13-version has more of a full shot. Furthermore it runs 1 frame longer.
+ 0,04 Sec.
1:22:39: The extended cut shows Bryan shooting a second time at the guy, revealing a bloody wound on his stomach and several other wounds.
1:22:51: Again there's use of alternate footage.
PG-13: The man sneaks silently to the door, one can see Bryan hiding on the other side. Then he shoots through the glass and the bad guy suddenly falls backwards to the ground. In the extended cut he also sneaks to the door but then Bryan shoots and hits the bodyguard in the face. He falls to the ground in a different shot.
1:23:11: Bryan shoots another time at the bodyguard lying on the floor. The theatrical version has a closer shot of that scene.
1:23:26: The extended cut shows Bryan shooting three times at the bodyguard. These are missing in the PG-13-cut.
1:23:30: Bryan shoots the security guard multiple times with the machine gun.
1:23:40: Alternate material. Bryan punches the Arab frontal into the face and adds three punches in another shot. The theatrical cut has a more distant shot of Bryan sitting on his enemy.
1:23:44: Bryan presses the arm with the knife near the face of his opponent.
1:23:51: The Arab tries to stab Bryan, this is missing in the theatrical cut.
1:23:54: Again several attempts made by the Arab to stab Bryan were removed. He hits a light, though.
1:23:58: Now he got him. The theatrical cut omits how Bryan suffers from a bloody wound on his stomach. He then dodges another stab.
1:24:02: Bryan punches his opponent in the back twice.
1:24:08: Another try to stab Bryan was cut.
1:24:16: Mistake while mastering the DVD? 9 frames of a completely harmless shot are omitted in the PG-13-cut before Bryan grabs the bottle.
1:24:19: The Arab grabs a bottle as well. He throws it at Bryan where it smashes. (What else?)
1:24:24: Bryan gets kicked by his Arab opponent, who also tries to stab him for a change.
1:24:26: After Bryan stabbed his enemy with the broken bottle (which can be seen in the PG-13-version as well) only the extended cut shows how Bryan stabs the neck and then the chest of his combatant.
1:24:31: The extended cut shows the sickle which is then rammed into the stomach of the Arab by Bryan, who also uses his knee to stick it in more. In the theatrical version one could get the idea that the enemy goes down because Bryan kicks him with his knee.