Director: Olivier Megaton
Cast: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Leland Orser, Don Harvey, Famke Janssen
MPAA Rating: (for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief strong language)
Running Time: 1:49
Release Date: 1/9/15
Review by Mark Dujsik | January 9, 2015
Taken 3, the third and allegedly final installment in this series (The ending leaves the door open for a sequel, because that's the way of Hollywood these days), is a return to the semi-serious tone of the first movie. That's a grave error, because the movie features more of the same kind of silly action sequences that were the highlight of the first sequel. That one was so absurd in places that it occasionally warped into some kind of kooky comedy. This entry is far too bland and repetitive to benefit from that form of unintentional saving grace.
What we get here is further evidence that sometimes one time is more is than enough. That's not just a criticism of the series in general but of this movie specifically. Here, we get scenes and gags that are repeated even when they aren't impressive or don't make much sense the first time.
Our hero narrowly escapes an exploding car twice over the course of the movie. The movie only bothers to show us how he evades a fiery death the second time, and that's likely because there's no logical way he could have escaped from the car the first time the cheap cliffhanger is implemented.
At this point in these movies, screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen seem to expect that we will take their hero's incredibly good luck as a matter of unquestionable faith. Of course he escapes from a car wedged at the bottom of an air shaft just as the sparks generated from the car scraping against the sides of the shaft ignite the gasoline leaking from the vehicle. We see and hear him in the car a few seconds before it explodes, and less than a minute later, he's walking away without a scratch or burn to be seen. It needs no explanation because the screenwriters and director Olivier Megaton assume we believe in the indestructible and infallible nature of Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson).
There's a dull sense of routine now, too. Mills interacts with his broken-but-loving family. His ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janseen) is having doubts about her marriage to Stuart (Dougray Scott). Mills' daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) is now in college, living on her own, dating a guy, and pregnant, which she keeps a secret from her dad until it becomes a way to awkwardly break the ice during an already uncomfortable moment. The moment, incidentally, is as the two are hiding in a bathroom stall before a swarm of cops arrive to arrest Mills, who has been framed for murder.
In case anyone was wondering, the murder does begin with an abduction, so at least the movie is consistent with the premise of its predecessors in spirit, if not the letter. The relentless detective pursuing the fugitive Mills is Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), who fiddles with not one but two props (a knight from a chess set and a rubber band) as a way to give him some vaguely personality-defining business to do in between stretches of dialogue.
He's a worthy adversary for Mills, which means he has foresight about what the hero will do but not enough to actually stop him. Maybe he's not "worthy" so much as he's convenient. He is, at least, given something to do, which is more than can be said of the Russian gangster (Sam Spruell) who is movie's apparent central villain. He shows up in the prologue before disappearing until the just before the movie's anticlimactic climax for a speedy montage of back story. Once that red herring of a scene is finished, we get to see the whole song and dance again, because the over-protective Mills brings his daughter along on a dangerous mission—apparently, just so she can be taken again.
Even before all of this, there are the required chases, fights, and gunplay. Megaton assembles these sequences piecemeal. They consist of one- and two-seconds shots (A three-second shot is the most leniency we get during these sequences) that, in tandem, theoretically possess the motion and form of an action scene. The perspectives between shots and within setups shift with such wild inconsistency, though, that the sequences are primarily a struggle to comprehend what's happening. In one shot, a car is driving, and in the next, it's somehow airborne. In one series of shots, an SUV starts off doing flips, is spinning on its axis in the next shot, and returns to flipping in the final one.
Routine can be forgivable. Routine for the sake of laziness is another matter entirely, and Taken 3 isn't just superficially lazy. That quality is the core of the movie's being.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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