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Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr., 1924

January 2, 2013

He’ll be back for his daughter

In the days between Christmas cake and marzipan and New Year's hangover, I saw reruns of two father-daughter films with a common theme: the daughter is kidnapped and her kick-ass father sets out to nail the abductors and rescue his girl.

Commando (1985) and Taken (2008) has two very angry men, John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), beat the crap out of the bad guys who dared to harm their little girls. To “beat the crap” in the cocooned world of the former head of a special forces unit and the retired special intelligence agent is to “seek and kill” the enemy. No questions, no authorisation, just bloodletting. 


Arnold Schwarzenegger and Alyssa Milano
in Commando

The murderous rage that Matrix and Mills experience may be compared to how a doting father might feel when some brainless twit woos his precious daughter, sweeps her off her feet, marries her, and whisks her away to some far-off place. What does the idiot know about taking care of daddy’s girl?

The father of the bride (there’s another one for you) would love to do to the groom what Mills vows to do, and in fact does, to the men who abduct his daughter in Paris.

“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,” Mills tells the leader of a gang of Albanian human traffickers in Taken.

Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace in Taken

If fathers are beaming proud and insanely protective of their daughters, their girls are no less so. In Commando, when an out-of-power dictator kidnaps Matrix’s teenage daughter, to force him into helping him regain power, and tells her, “Your father appears to be cooperating. You will be back with him soon. Won’t that be nice?” she gives him an unwavering look and retorts, “Not nearly as nice as watching him smash your face in.”

In many ways Commando and Taken epitomise the father-daughter relationship, in spite of the serious nature of the two movies. Commando is a comedy in action. Taken is a relentless thriller. I guess John Matrix and Bryan Mills would make fathers proud and, I suspect, envious too. A daughter, vulnerable as she comes, will remain daddy’s little girl. A son, well, now he can grow up to be a man.

4 comments:

  1. The theme touches on psychic roots that run deep. Maybe as much for daughters as fathers.

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  2. I had forgotten that Commando had that same theme but yes, definitely so. I saw it years ago and liked it. I liked TAken quite a lot as well, probably more.

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  3. Haven't seen Commando, but we watched Taken on DVD and liked it a lot. Watched it twice as a matter of fact. Interesting that you saw these two so close together.

    Have you seen Unknown with Liam Neeson? Not the same theme at all, but a thriller I enjoyed also.

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  4. I enjoyed TAKEN because of Liam Neesom - he was terrific as an aging action hero. I haven't seen COMMANDO and probably won't because I'm not an Arnold fan.

    You make an interesting point about father/daughter relationships. I am a big fan of competence and what I saw in Neesom's character was complete competence at his trade. A daughter needs a competent father. A daughter needs a hero.

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