(director/writer: Josef Kubota Wladyka; screenwriter: story by Kali Reis; cinematographer: Ross Giardina; editor: Benjamin Rodriguez Jr. ; music: Nathan Halpern; cast: Kali Reis (Kaylee).Michael Drayer(Danny), Kimberly Guerro (Jaya), Shelly Vincent (Brick), Kevin Dunn (Willie), Daniel Henshall (Bobby), Isabelle Chester (Lisa), Mainaku Borrero (Weeta); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Kimberly Parker, Mollye Asher: Protozoa Pictures; 2021)

I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as appreciated how well it was done.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An absorbing revenge thriller selected as an audience favorite at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. It’s a rich character study set in Buffalo by filmmaker Josef Kubota Wladyka (“Dirty Hands”/”Manos Sucias”), whose story on the kidnapping crimes and sex-trafficking of Native American women is a real downer but a necessary showing. The story is written by a real-life boxing champion, Kali Reis (the first Native American to win the International Boxing Association middleweight crown), in a troubling story close to her heart she worked on with the gifted writer-director Josef Kubota Wladyka.

When Weeta (Mainaku Borrero) is kidnapped and subsequently sold into sex trafficking. Her boxing champion older sister Kaylee (Kali Reis) reacts by quitting the ring and gets a waitress job in a second-rate diner to survive and resides in a shelter. Kaylee is estranged from her support group counselor mother, Jaya (Kimberly Guerrero), who counsels individuals with missing loved ones but ironically can’t reach out to those in her family.

Kaylee, called KO,  a boxing champ with a drug problem, who for self-defense keeps a razor blade in her mouth, will do anything to save her sister. KO finds through a disturbing Craigslist ad a photo of her sister and with her loyal boxing trainer Brick (Shelly Vincent) sets up a meeting with the bad guy sex trafficker leader, Bobby (Daniel Henshall).

It’s a bleak slow-burn film that exposes the bad guys as normal but cold hearted businessmen who are debased and immoral. What the film is good at is showing the anger it raises in the vic’s rescuer and that there are large numbers of Indigenous women who suffer from this same cruel fate.

The plan KO comes up with to free her sister is to let the traffickers think she’s been recruited by their regular recruiter Lisa (Isabelle Chester) as the new sex worker, as she schemes to get her sister out of the horrible situation through her combat experience in the ring.

I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as appreciated how well it was done– it’s a powerful and poignant film that shines a light on crimes I wasn’t aware of how extensive they are. The production values were first class, the direction was superb and Kali performed with great fierceness and heart (and even did her own stunts). This is Taken done from a female viewpoint.