How realistic is the movie “Taken”?

“Taken” is an action-packed thriller from 2008. If you’re here then you’ve likely seen it. It has it all – drugs, guns, prostitution, kidnapping and some badass action scenes. Just how realistic is it though? Is any of it possible?

The Albanian mafia – Sex trafficking and drug smuggling

Organized crime groups in Albania are known to be involved in a wide range of illegal activities, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms trafficking, extortion, money laundering and even the stealing and selling of human organs. Some of these groups have established operations in other countries, including France.

In 2000 the Albanian mafia controlled more than 70% of the heroin market in Germany, Austria and the Scandinavian countries. They also pimped out thousands of prostitutes across Europe, many of which were illegal immigrants.

They are still active and have grown since then. In 2019 the Sun newspaper reported that the Albanians have accomplished ‘a near total takeover of Britain’s £5 billion cocaine industry.’

It is entirely plausible that there is an Albanian-run sex trafficking ring in Paris. Given the high quantities of hard drugs that they deal with, it is also possible that they supply their prostitutes with heroin as a way of keeping them in debt and preventing them from trying to escape.

Are American girls targeted by sex rings in Paris?

The people who run prostitution rings and deal in human trafficking are always looking for an easy target. Rich American girls are the opposite of an easy target. Especially considering that the two girls are kidnapped in broad daylight and dragged down five flights of stairs. Paris is a densely populated city, people are bound to notice that kind of commotion, and the last thing a criminal enterprise needs is unwanted attention. They work best if they stay in the shadows. For this reason, the kinds of people these criminals target are girls that nobody would even notice if they were missing. Girls whose faces won’t be plastered across newspapers. They would usually target homeless girls, drug addicts, and illegal immigrants. They want people who have nothing to lose, girls whose families won’t hunt them down.

Sending a crew to kidnap them from their apartment is far fetched, especially considering that they were just going to sell them into prostitution. This might have been plausible if they were intending to hold the girls hostage in exchange for a hefty ransom, which is not something the Albanian mafia is known for.

Prostitution in Europe

Often referred to as “the worlds oldest profession”, prostitution is legal in countries across Europe, but it’s nothing like what you think. While laws vary, Europe has a more permissive attitude towards prostitution than in the US. In Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Turkey, the Netherlands, Hungary, and Latvia, prostitution is legal and regulated. Even the UK created a legal red light zone in 2014 in Leeds. Places like the red light district in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, function like any normal business. The law protects the women, business owners are required to provide safe, hygienic working conditions, and must ensure that they are all healthy and independent. These (mostly) women go to work, often choose their own rates, they pay taxes and are entitled to all of the things that any normal working class person is.

Prostitution in Paris

“Taken” is set in Paris around the year 2008, the act of paying for sex was legal in Paris until the law was overturned in 2016. Currently prostitution itself – receiving money for sex – is not a crime. However, activities around it are and were illegal, such as pimping, human trafficking, operating a brothel, and buying sex from a minor.

The current law decriminalizes the act for the prostitute, but makes it illegal for the client. Paying for sex is illegal and can result in a fine and mandatory classes to learn the negative effects that prostitution has on sex workers. It is estimated that approximately 80% of sex workers are foreign nationals, most of whom moved to Paris in search of a better life.

Are Virgins actually worth more?

There have been cases of human trafficking and forced marriages in some Arab countries, where women have been bought and sold against their will. These practices are illegal and widely condemned. In Islam there is a strong desire for women to be “pure” and therefore a women who isn’t a virgin would be deemed undesirable. Utilising this information it would seem that a virgin would be worth more, but that is purely speculative.

There have been cases of rich men from Dubai paying preposterous sums of money to European and American Instagram models to fly over and perform sexual acts on them, but the women were paid well and consented entirely.

There is no proof of Western women being sold at auction to wealthy Arabs. This one element of “Taken” reflects very badly on all Arabic men.

Is Taken realistic?

Elements of “Taken” are entirely possible. There are sex rings in Paris, many of which do provide the women with drugs. There are also victims of human trafficking in Paris. The Albanian mafia has a big presence in Europe, and is very powerful in regards to the drug trade. It is believed that they have operations in France, but there isn’t a whole lot of evidence, which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, merely that they are very good at covering their tracks. The targeting of American women is highly unlikely, and kidnapping them in broad daylight is such a risky move on their part that it just seems plain silly to even consider it. Its not impossible of course, but its highly unlikely. There is no definitive answer for how easy it would be to find a person who has been a victim of human trafficking, even for a former CIA agent. Given the level of caution criminal enterprises act upon, the whereabouts of these women would likely be extremely difficult to determine.

The most unlikely thing of all though, is Brian Mills (played by Liam Neeson) wandering around Paris killing anyone he chooses and getting away with it, but I’m sure you knew that already.