a very particular set of skills

so i went and saw the movie taken with liam neeson. its the story of a mans daughter being kidnapped and of his subsequent efforts to rescue her. heres the trailer…

heres neesons phone statement in case you didnt catch all of it.

i dont know who you are. i dont know what you want. if you are looking for ransom i can tell you i dont 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 peope like you. if you let my daughter go now thatll be the end of it. i will not look for you i will not pursue you. but if you dont i will look for you i will find you and i will kill you.

and he proceeds to do just that.


(as if you dont know whats about to happen…)

after flying to paris he quickly tracks down the spotter and chases him to his death in traffic. then he proceeds to kill a buncha guys in a portable prostitution trailer on a construction site. the trail of bodies leads from one location to another as neesons character hunts down the man he spoke those words to and then tortures him to death.

but its not over.

theres one scene where neeson sits down to dinner with a french man he apparently worked alognside at one time in the past. the mans wife has prepared dinner but the food remains uneaten as neeson and his former associate get into a riff about the corruption of the local police force. as it turns out the frenchman is on the take and is indirectly receiving money from the very guys who run the kidnapping/prostitution ring.

so neeson shoots his wife.

its only a flesh wound mind you but after a bit of cursing and a threat to make the mans children into orphans he gives neeson a bit of info and is knocked cold. lucky guy. hes one of the only people in the movie neeson doesnt kill.

having still not found his daughter yet he proceeds to track down and kill a whole buncha other guys involved in the european sex-slave trade. one by one he knocks them off using his very particular set of skills until he finds his daughter on the yacht of a sheikh who he kills – securing the rescue of his kidnapped daughter.

they hug and cry and travel back to california where there is a happy ending. roll credits.


standing outside our little rangra theater after the flick ended i found myself pondering the broader implications of this movie. which is weird bc this is really nothing more than your typical shootemup.

but this movie stirs up a big murky cloud around the concept of justice.

the big issue that immediately arises is whether or not what neeson has done is right. the general pull of the movie and the complete lack of character development in any of the baddies makes you want to think so. but in truth neeson is nothing more than a vigilante subverting the established means at any cost to get back his daughter. at one point he even tells his former associate that he will tear down the eiffel tower to find her.

and its not that i dont understand the motivation. children are precious and we are given to protect them. theres no sin in that. however – does this justify killing busloads of people even if they are guilty? does it justify torture to the point of death? does it justify shooting an uninvolved person for the sake of info?

lets be clear. theres not an ounce of remorse or sorrow in neesons character. hes a killing machine when it comes to anyone not related to him who might stand in his way. and to be honest he has the mercy and compassion of a tyranical third world dictator.

but we want him to suceed.

time after time during the show when neeson would off a baddie with a flurry of fists or a well aimed blast of his acquired weapon the people in the theater would oooh and aaah. in one scene neeson wrecks shop on a roomfull of albanians. when another henchman bursts thru the door he sees them all lying on the floor neeson lift his arms from underneath one of them and puts a bullet in the guys teeth.

and the audience is all but cheering.

i cant help but wonder how christ-like is this? i mean seriously – place jesus in neesons role and what happens? the daughter vanishes into the sex-slave underground while jesus weeps? jesus dad gets in on the action and wipes out all of albania with a massive flood while sparing the girl in a boat made of gopher wood? roll credits?

i see evidence for both reactions in scripture. on the one hand you have god in the old testament using a massive flood to wipe out those he considers his enemies because of their sins. on the other you have god in the new testament telling his followers to turn the other cheek and refusing to go apenuts when his enemies beat him senseless and nail him to a tree.

and again in the ot we find god sitting by as all manner of evil is perpetrated on his people in egypt. for several hundred years he does nothing. then the exodus comes as god takes the life of every firstborn egyptian son including that of the pharaoh. and theres always the glorious picture we find in the book of revelation with jesus stomping his enemies into a bloody pulp that stains the bottom of his robe.

is neeson an imitator of god?

can you envision god telling pharaoh:

i have a very particular set of skills. skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. if you let my people go now thatll be the end of it. i will not look for you. i will not pursue you. but if you dont – i will look for you. i will plague you and i will kill your firstborn.

yep. pretty much. 10 plagues worth. it gets rolling in exodus 5 and comes to climax in exodus 11. check it:

so moses said: thus says the lord: about midnight i will go out in the midst of egypt and firstborn in the land of egypt shall die from the firstborn of pharaoh who sits in his throne even to the firstborn of the slavegirl who is behind the handmill and all the firstborn of the cattle. there shall be a great cry thru-out all the land of egypt such as there has never been nor ever will be again.

then in exodus 12 we find:

at midnight the lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of egypt from the firstborn of pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon and all the firstborn of the livestock. and pharaoh rose up in the night – he and all his servants and all the egyptians. and there was a great cry in egypt for there was not a house where someone was no dead. then he summoned moses and aaron by night and said: go out from among my people both you and the people of israel – and go serve the lord as you have said.

so god goes to great lengths to bring his children safely out of danger – even to the point of killing many who are not directly involved. which draws us to the real point of my pondering..

<<<<<who is justified in doing such things?>>>>>

despite our desire for justice and corresponding willingness to look favorably on vigilantes who pursue it to our liking i dont think we can justify neesons character bc he lacks the very particular set of skills that would allow him to be judge and executioner of these sinners. and the extent of his actions reveal that he is ultimately no different from them.

so what about god?

why is god the father justified if he takes life? bc he gave it. bc he sees our hearts and knows everything about us. bc his judgment is not based on whether or not we measure up but on jesus the christ. its thats simple. the son of god gave up his throne and put on skin so that after living a sinless life he could make the ultimate sacrifice and in turn eliminate the injustices of all those who put their trust in him to do so.

only the one who secured our redemption by taking all our injustice on his shoulders and paying the consequences for it is justified in retribution. and in the broken messed up situation mankind finds itself in its a good thing we can place our hope in jesus instead of liam neeson.


~ by graceshaker on March 19, 2009.

24 Responses to “a very particular set of skills”

  1. Great post!

    I especially loved the (your) last sentence!

    As you described the movie I was thinking of the Charles Bronson character in those old Death Wish movies.

    The formula works. Good guy gets even with bad guys. Kills them in ways that satisfy our bloodlust and appeal to our sense of justice.

    If it’s done halfway well, it works every time.

    But I still believe that “Vengence is mine sayeth the Lord.” (although I’d love to get a couple of shots in myself!)

  2. In many cases, God uses man’s hands to exact His vengeance. Accurately discerning which is his will, versus [some] man’s innate bloodlust, is the key in this situation and possibly an area of extreme spiritual discipline.

  3. Very good post, well thought out. This particular movie taps into a particularly sensitive area, I think. Nothing would test my resolve not to repay evil with evil like someone intentionally harming one of my small children would.

  4. And for a second I thought we would actually finally agree on something…Until I read the last two paragraphs. What a shame.

    Great post, up until there…

  5. Vengeance movies strike a chord within us. we want justice in an unjust world. Playing god is what the character was doing. I trust god would never put me in a circumstance like that. I would be very tempted to revert to old ways and use some dormant skills to “play God” myself. God Giveth, God can taketh away.
    I not only liked the post i really liked the last 2 para that Hope did not.
    I prob will not see the movie, it takes too long yo get the old thoughts gone again, but I sure enjoyed reading about it! thanks

  6. hill – very keen observation.

    hope – could you be more specific in your disagreement with my last two paragraphs?

    adam/willoh/barry – the question is at what price might we exact justice?

  7. Sorry it has taken me so long to reply. I’ve been trying to find the time…

    I dont agree with any of it. To be very unspecific ;) Okay, here we go…

    My thoughts? It’s not okay for God to give us a set rule of thumb “Thou Shalt Not Kill” And then going on his own killing spree shortly after. In my eyes? That is severe bull Sh**. It’s like telling your kids not to swear and then you go on a swearing rampage soon after. How is that fair? How is that an example?

    Was neeson justified? I dont know. Was god justified? I dont know. It’s two completely different situations. But no, I do not agree that god has the right to off of and have fun hacking away.

  8. hope – it seems you dont see a difference between the creator and the created.

  9. I dont see how just because you’re a creator of something, that gives you the right to be a hypocritical jerk.

  10. its not hypocrisy anymore than if i forbid my 6 year old daughter to punish my 4 year old son but spank him myself.

  11. Good analogy, but it’s different. God killed THOUSANDS of people. For apparently no particular reason. I dont care who you are, but I see no justification in killing thousands of people.

    What if god was the cause for the 9/11 attack? Would that make it ok? Because god didnt like the people in that building? It makes it ok for them all to die? No. It doesn’t. (I am not claiming this to be true, but just giving you my example in return)

  12. it seems the god you are referring to is capricious. i dont believe in him either.

  13. Who?

  14. the god who “killed THOUSANDS of people. For apparently no particular reason.”

  15. Have you read the old testament?…

  16. show me the god who kills for no particular reason.

  17. Explain to me how it is justice to kill thousands, no matter the excuse. Can you?

  18. the answer to that question is in the final two paragraphs of the original post. but i want to address your thots further bc it seems like the discussion has changed. first it was that god killed people for no particular reason. now it seems the reason doesnt matter.

    having no just excuse leads to the conclusion that all killing of any kind is wrong. but i wonder if you really believe that. lets find out..

    what position do you take on abortion?

    what position do you take on capital punishment?

    what if a man held a gun to your most beloved relative and you were able to stop him by killing him first?

    im truly interested in your answers to these 3 questions.

  19. I’m anti-abortion. If you dont want the kid, put it up for adoption.

    Capital punishment I haven’t concluded how I feel. I think I am also anti this as well, they will die eventually due to a natural cause. Let them live a long dreadful life in jail.

    Under the heat of the moment, I would probably kill the man…if the opportunity was clearly there. I would probably avoid it at all costs, but yes…if it was the only option I would do it. Though, it does go against what I believe in: Killing is wrong, you cant justify it.

  20. lets go further. why do you believe killing is wrong? and how do you come to believe about it as you do?

  21. I’m not sure I want to debate morality with you. But I’ll give this the best shot I can.

    Aside from the Bible clearly stating that killing is a sin. (I hardly would say that I base my morality off of the Bible, that’s just a silly claim…but it’s the only physical reference I can think of). But it all boils down to morality and my own morals. So why do I morally think it’s wrong to kill? Because each person has only a certain amount of years to live and they should be allowed to live the small amount there is. Even if they are a bad person, they still deserve the right to live. If they’re that bad, let them live their lives in jail, I’ll pay for it with my tax money. But why do I feel this way? I’m not sure. Probably the same reason I cant see myself ever being able to actually physically hurting someone on purpose.

    Sure, I’m a physical person but I’d never do anything that could cause long term damage to you. I’ll hit you in the arm, but not the face. I’ll kick you in the calf, but not in the back of the head. I’ll twist your nipple, but I wouldn’t poke your eye.

    Make sense?

  22. […] the very notion of losing a child is something i took a look at via the lens of the movie taken in a previous post and as i read the book it seemed id stumbled into the same conversation from a different […]

  23. i dont know who you are. i dont know what you want. if you are looking for ransom i can tell you i dont 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 peope like you. if you let my daughter go now thatll be the end of it. i will not look for you i will not pursue you. but if you dont i will look for you i will find you and i will kill you.

    best scene of all time

  24. where the fuck r u people from? they took his daughter to be a sex slave he went and got her back they’re lucky she wasn’t my daughter I would have wiped out their entire race. you bunch of fuckin pussys
    a marine

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