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Posted: Friday, February 13, 2009 10:00 pm

"Taken"

*** 1/2(OUT OF FOUR)

It seems to go against my adventurous movie-going spirit, but I love genre movies that deliver exactly what they promise to, in exactly the way you expect them to. Take "Taken," a preposterous kidnapping thriller that really isn't all that different from any other cheap revenge fantasy, with some key exceptions. Most importantly, this skillfully assembled film recognizes and even embraces its own superfluous nature, and never even attempts to make any kind of serious statement about its subject matter. You're paying to watch a gracefully aging Liam Neeson tear through the streets of Europe with extreme prejudice and reckless abandon, taking out anyone or anything that comes between him and his little girl, and 93 minutes of badass Liam is exactly what you get.

"The Wrestler"

****

I watched a movie called "91/2 Weeks" for the first time the other day. It's a "sex flick," but a great one, and a stark reminder of why I've always considered Mickey Rourke to be one of cinema's most appealing leading men, and perhaps - just perhaps - the sexist bastard to ever flash his mug on a movie screen. But that was long ago. He could have been his generation's Brando, but a string of bad choices both onand off-screen (including a brief, devastating stint as a boxer) led Rourke down a bad path that ended with him existing on the margins of the movie industry, beaten down to a pulp on the outside and scarred internally by the knowledge that all of it was nobody's fault but his own. He'll never be handsome again, but thanks to Darren Aronofsky's wholly remarkable "The Wrestler," Rourke has at least gotten one last shot at stardom. And he makes the most of the opportunity with his Oscar-worthy turn as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a big-time pro wrestler who peaked in the late 1980s but, 20 years later, finds himself broke and alone.

"Tell No One"

****

Even the title is alluring, which befits this thoroughly titillating Hitchcockian thriller about a man who begins receiving ominous e-mails from his wife eight years after she was supposedly murdered by a serial killer. (Among her instructions: "Tell no one. They're watching.") The set-up is as simple as can be, but from there things get complicated pretty quickly. An hour in, the plot gets so mind-bendingly complex that it seems there couldn't possibly be a reasonable explanation for everything that the man learns as he works to unravel the mysteries behind his wife's disappearance. However, by the end of this incredibly dense, rich and amazingly literary character-based story, all loose ends are tied up without the filmmakers ever having to resort to cheap tricks (e.g., he's crazy and killed her himself; it's all a dream; etc.).

Movies are reviewed by News-Sentinel movie reviewer Jason Wallis every Saturday.

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