Thursday, November 12, 2015

Taken 3 Review

Even Liam Neeson seems to be over "action Liam Neeson" at this point. Oh I'm sure he's more than enjoyed the hefty paychecks and massively increased level of fame projects like the Taken trilogy and Unknown have brought, but the box office for recent forays into this subgenre have been steadily diminishing, and next year, Neeson will star in dramas like A Monster Calls and Silence instead of, say, Stolen Boat, in which he attempts to retrieve his stolen boat.

But lest you think 20th Cenutry Fox, the studio responsible for that Fantastic Four reboot from this year and the incoming Die Hard prequel, was gonna let Neeson go into that gentle good night without turning the Taken saga into a trilogy, buddy, you've got another thing coming. And so, with Neeson and his old age action skills ready to burn and rave at close of day, director Oliver Megaton returns to direct this third installment, Taken 3, (he previously directed Taken 2) in order to rage, rage against all forms of visually coherently put together action sequences.

Similar to fellow 20th Century Fox action movie stalwart Die Hard, there's really no need for any sort of Taken follow-ups, given that the whole point of the plot of the first Taken feature was that this was an irregular event for Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson). Yes, he had gone on Government missions before (hence why he had those "particular set of skills"), but the concept of someone in his family (in the first movie it's his daughter) being in jeopardy stood out because it was such an anomaly in his otherwise conventional life. Dragging Mills out for more mayhem just undermines the specialty of the original films entire conceit.

This time around, the plot actually doesn't seem to relate to anything being "taken", though one could argue that the life of Bryan's ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is "taken" when she's murdered by unknown adversaries. Mills is framed for the crime and then sets off on a hunt to clear his name, which leads him to face off against a Russian gangster who resembles Lloyd Christmas. The bare-bones nature of this plot is obviously done so that little things like "story structure" and "character development" don't interfere with the action sequences, which would be fine, even smartly economic screenwriting, if every single action scene in this movie wasn't hot garbage.

Learning nothing from unintelligible action from Taken 2, Taken 3 seems to believe that editing fight scenes in a rapid-fire manner works a solid substitute for creating actually engaging hand-to-hand conflict. Shots linger for maybe 2 seconds, if one is lucky, and good luck trying to figure out the geography of where people or objects are in actions sequences with this kind of atrocious editing going on. How the hell can I enjoy Liam Neeson beating bad guys to a pulp in a convenience store if I don't know what in God's name is going on? That's a crucial question that the filmmakers have decided to ignore in favor of some of the most poor executed action scenes I've seen this side of a Michael Bay Transformers imbroglio.

Returning to play Bryan Mills for the third time, Liam Neeson seems bored for much of the film, and who can blame him? This character has no growth in the film, and any attempts at drama (such as his daughters hesitance to tell her father that she's pregnant) feel like they snuck in from another equally terrible movie. Out of everyone in this cast, Forrest Whitaker easily fares the best, settling into the persona of a gruff cop who wants to find the killer of Lenore (whether that's Bryan or someone else) at all costs one that the actors sells with ease. If it weren't for him and some moments where over-the-top imagery juxtaposes with Taken 3's relentlessly dour tone (there are numerous somber shots of a stuffed panda in one of the films first scenes that had me cackling like a fool. Why oh why couldn't the stuffed panda come along for the entire adventure?), this entire film would be a complete mess. With those two elements in place...well, let's see, if my calculations are right, that makes it only 99% of a mess, I guess. Sorry, I was never good at mathematics, just as Oliver Megaton appears to be no good at directing action movies.

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