Kidnapping Dabney Coleman

The actor who kept getting taken

Let me tell you about this obscure movie in which Dabney Coleman plays an oblivious unpopular boss of a major corporation who gets kidnapped and tied to a chair….

“Hang on!” I hear you say “That’s not an obscure movie that’s Nine to Five (1980) one of the most popular comedies of all time!”

Well y’see that’s where you’re wrong. It turns out there’s a second film in which Dabney Coleman gets kidnapped and tied to a chair only it’s not a comedy this time it’s a deadly serious drama. In this one we don’t get to see Dabs hog-tied by Dolly Parton and strapped into a ridiculous bondage rig attached to a garage door mechanism that hauls him up to the ceiling if he misbehaves. Nope this 1999 crime thriller shows Coleman realistically beaten and afraid desperately pleading with a ruthless criminal and being in genuine danger of getting murdered.

I know it’s crazy right? So what’s the title of this gritty Christopher Nolan-esque reboot of a frothy comedy? That’s the best part. It’s called Taken . Yep the evil twin of Nine to Five shares a title with that awesome 2008 action flick in which Liam Neeson softly threatens his daughter’s kidnappers on the phone before kicking evil foreigners’ asses all over Europe.

It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever get to see Taken (1999). Ask for it by name and people will think you want the Liam Neeson movie. Describe the plot and you’ll stir up visions of Jane Fonda Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin getting up to wacky hijinks. Is a movie that’s so obviously in the shade of two major blockbusters even worthwhile?

Actually it’s pretty good. Coleman has always been a talented actor and he’s frighteningly convincing here as a victim of kidnapping. We see the blood on his face and the fear in his eyes we listen to his terrified stammer as he begs his captors for mercy and we genuinely want him to survive his ordeal. It would be terrifying if not for the fact that we’ve seen this actor play this exact same scenario for laughs 19 years earlier in the role that typecast him for life.

Imagine casting Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Looper (2012) or Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray in Paranormal Activity (2007). No matter how good the performances might be we’d keep shouting “1.21 jiggawatts!” or “he slimed me!” at the screen.

Anyways the 1999 Taken has Coleman’s character bargaining for his own life when it turns out that his cheating wife would rather let him die than pay the ransom so that she can take over the company and receive a big insurance payout. Hold on a second — isn’t that the plot of Ruthless People (1986)? Damn it movie! Stop basing your tense drama on ’80s comedies!

Young viewers can probably view Taken (1999) without all that comedic baggage since nobody’s thought about Nine to Five in years but back in the day you couldn’t get away from it. The office comedy had an all-star cast a hit theme song that got years of radio play and it made Dolly Parton into an actress (kind of).

Coleman finally got to do some kidnapping of his own in the TV movie Kidnapped: In the Line of Duty (1995). What a way to make a living.