Movie Review #944
|Premiered in Berlin on December 16, 2014. Nationwide release on January 9, 2015. Action/Thriller. This film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief strong language. Runs 109 minutes. A French production. Directed by Olivier Megaton. Written by Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen. Characters by Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen. Cast: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, and Dougray Scott.|
THOUGH OLIVIER MEGATON’S DIRECTION REMAINS HIT-AND-MISS, THE INCREASED ACTION SPECTACLE AND BETTER STORY MAKE “TAKEN 3” AN ENJOYABLE POPCORN FILM.
By Red Stewart
Critics are thrashing “Taken 3” left and right, some saying it rips off “The Fugitive”, others that its action is sloppy and poorly directed. While these are valid points, I’m under the impression that the main reason behind all this negativity is franchise fatigue, or rather, Neeson fatigue. Let me clarify: the “Taken” series has only had three entries, but in the time between the first and third, Neeson has done 5-6 successful thrillers (depending on your definition) that have established him as a believable action star on equal footing with such heavy hitters as Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.
Mainstream critics, many of whom were primarily exposed to Neeson through “Schindler’s List”, have given a mixed response to this transition, with some no doubt likening it to Nicolas Cage’s 21st century career choices. As a fellow reviewer, I personally feel this is wrong of them, as each movie in an actor’s filmography should be reviewed independent of their other cinematic decisions.
With that said, I actually liked “Taken 3”, though I certainly had a few big problems with it as well. The story is similar to “The Fugitive” in that it follows protagonist Bryan Mills getting framed for the murder of a close one, but to call it a copy is akin to calling “Avatar” a ripoff of “Dances With Wolves”- similar plot structures do not justify plagiarism charges. To put it bluntly, “The Fugitive” is much more story-driven while “Taken 3” is action-driven, though I will say that this is Besson’s best script since “Léon: the Professional”.
Speaking of Besson, he sadly once again restricts himself to the role of producer, leaving the film in the hands of “Taken 2” director Olivier Megaton. This is where the real problems start to unfold. To me, Megaton is an amateur solely because, despite doing five films now, he remains under the impression that queasycam + choppy editing = good action, when we all know that’s far from true.
Now luckily he drops this technique after the film’s first two setpieces (a foot chase and car chase respectively), but it really sets a bad precedent for the rest of the movie. Which is shame, because from there on out, “Taken 3” is the kind of popcorn film I was hoping it would be based on the trailers. You have Neeson, with his gruff voice and particular set of skills, fighting off a bunch of thugs in a variety of locations, and those kinds of scenes are enjoyable only if they’re properly filmed.
That’s really the “Taken” films in a nutshell. When your leading man takes the role seriously, the audience willfully goes along for the ride. It also doesn’t hurt when you have great supporting performances from Maggie Grace and Forrest Whitaker.
The only other warning I have to say about “Taken 3” is the large disconnect it has from the previous films. “Taken 2”, for all its faults, was a sequel that realistically dealt with the aftermath of Mills’s one-man crusade from the first film. However, aside from a vague reference, there really is not much of a connection between “Taken 3” and its prior entries. I understand Besson didn’t want to make the Albanians the villains again, but the completely different plotline did come off as a bit jarring for me.
“Taken 3” is a summer movie released in winter–the kind of film you’ll want to watch with your friends just for fun. I don’t normally disagree with critics, but if you’re like me, and immune to franchise fatigue, then “Taken 3” will be worth your time.