January 9, 2015

Movie Review: Taken 3

It has been nearly three years since we last saw Liam Neeson put on the guise of Bryan Mills, the former agent with the particular set of skills. Granted, those three years have not been completely devoid of Liam Neeson as bad ass, we did get A Walk Among the Tombstones and Non-Stop in the interim. I think you could also toss in his performance as Bad Cop in The Lego Movie as a sort of family-friendly bad ass. The only thing I can hope for at this point is that this is the last we see of Bryan Mills. It is not that I don't like him or this movie, but I think they have run out of stuff for him to do.

Taken 3 is the latest release from the Luc Besson European Action Factory, errr, EuropaCorp. I must also admit to being a sucker for Luc Besson projects. The guy writes/directs/produces/shepherds a whole mess of fun actioners. He holds producer reigns as well as serving as co-writer with longtime Robert Mark Kamen. I may not love all of his films, but there is an inordinate number that I do like. As for this one, it may be the weakest of the trilogy and not quite go out with the bang it deserves, but it is still a fun film that continues the string of solid action flicks.

This third go around foregoes the once thought required “taking” as the title would suggest. It seems this was a condition that Liam Neeson had for returning to the role. This time around all of the action is set in Los Angeles, gone are the globetrotting trips of the first two films. So, while some things have changed, others have stayed the same. Mills still has his particular set of skills and gets in all manner of fisticuffs and car chases, but it is mostly with cops this time (although not entirely).

So, with no takens to be took, Taken 3 borrows from The Fugitive bag of tricks. Mills is framed for the murder of his es-wife (Famke Janssen) and now he must evade police capture, led by Inspector Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), as he races to protect his daughter (Maggie Grace) and clear his name. That's about it. After some early scenes re-establishing his relationships (his daughter, ex, ex's current husband, special forces buddies) he is off to the races, putting together the pieces and exacting his brand of justice.

I enjoyed the film, but it certainly is not without its issues. Neeson is fine as Mills, the likable father and friend blended with the unstoppable skilled agent. It is hard not to like him, respect him, be scared to death of him. The story is not a bad one, not that it is given its due process in terms of development. That is one of the weak points, they took the shortcut route, and it feels it. There are moments where I seriously thought that a scene was skipped. No matter, it still makes sense in the end, but it did make it a bit disjointed.

I think my biggest disappointment is in the editing. I am no hater of quick cuts or fast editing in general, but in this case it just goes too far. One second cuts that go all over the place, different characters, angles, directions, it is way too much. Someone should have tried decaf in the editing bay. There is also a little matter of the sanitized violence. Yes, violence can be done effectively at the PG-13 level, but this (and also the second one) would have benefited from violence with a slight harder edge. It was like a frenetic episode of The A-Team television series, lots of violence, but everyone walks away. It is a tad silly.

On the positive side, I really liked Forest Whitaker in this. He is an actor with a set of twitches and tics all his own, and this role takes full advantage of it. Whitaker is all twitchy and ticcy here, playing with a rubber band on his wrist, a knight chess piece, and whatever else is around, not to mention his unique head movements and speech mannerisms.

It might be more of a whimper than a bang, it is still an entertaining movie. It has been a fun series, but it may be time to put it out to pasture, let Neeson spread his brand of bad ass to other movies. This delivers what it needs to, yes it could have been more, but it is enough. Now, what can we do about getting him back into the Darkman role?

Mildly Recommended.

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