Review of “Taken 3”

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) arrives at the apartment of his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) just after she has taken a pregnancy test and learns she is expecting. Taken by surprise by his visit, Kim doesn’t tell Bryan about the pregnancy. Later, Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) arrives at Bryan’s apartment and tells him of her marital problems with her current husband Stuart St. John (Dougray Scott). Lenore and Bryan kiss but Bryan tells her they shouldn’t do anything until she works out her issues with Stuart. She leaves and the next day, Stuart shows up at Bryan’s apartment. After some small talk, Stuart asks Bryan to stay away from Lenore while they work on their marriage. Bryan reluctantly agrees. The next morning, Bryan gets a text from Lenore asking him to pick up bagels as she is on her way to talk. When Bryan returns with the bagels he finds a bloody knife in the hallway and Lenore dead in his bed with a slit throat. As he’s trying to revive her, police enter with guns drawn believing Bryan has killed Lenore. Bryan manages to escape and contacts his old covert crew including Sam (Leland Orser) for help in disappearing for a while so he can figure out who killed Lenore and why he was set up. Investigating Lenore’s murder and also looking for Bryan is Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker). Dotzler and his team are aware of Bryan’s background to an extent but are unprepared for all the tactics he will use to remain free, look for the killers and protect Kim. Meanwhile, someone owes Russian mobster Oleg Malankov (Sam Spruell) a great deal of money and he’s willing to kill anyone to get it back. Somehow, all of this is connected.

“Taken 3” is about what you’d expect from the third installment of an action series. I wasn’t expecting much and I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get much. Perhaps it’s time for Bryan Mills to find a secluded island in the middle of the ocean and move everyone he knows there to protect them. That way, they won’t be taken by anyone ever again…please.

There is so much wrong with “Taken 3” it is difficult to know where to start. Perhaps it should be from the beginning with the opening credits. The best way to describe them is “jumpy.” As the image of an evening cityscape shift from picture to picture, it transitions with a bit of blurriness along with the name of the actor switching positions on the screen. Something about this style hit me wrong, putting me in a less than friendly mood to critique the movie. Even if they credits had made me feel like the king of the world, the rest of the movie would have brought me back to Earth.

While “Taken 3” is predictable with even a plot twist near the end being telegraphed from a mile away, it is also a rather confused mess. Various plot points are picked up and dropped with such speed it makes you wonder if the projector operator had switched movies. The script can’t decide who it should focus on (despite Liam Neeson’s Bryan being the obvious choice) so it uses a scattershot approach that causes the film to feel disjointed. The movie is edited in a similar fashion making the story drag on in areas where it should only visit for a moment while important bits get just a passing glance.

With a PG-13 rating “Taken 3” has to keep a tight lid on its violence and language. The filmmakers seem to have a real problem with that when it is compared to the first film of the series. “Taken,” also rated PG-13, had the feel of a much more violent, gritty movie. The action scenes felt more painful and the memory I have of the film is much more blood-soaked than is perhaps the reality. “Taken 3” is so bloodless it feels anemic. Even scenes where there should be an enormous amount of blood have little or none. One scene in particular stuck out when Bryan and another man engage in a gunfight. One of them is not wearing a shirt and is shot twice in the abdomen. The other man then sticks the barrel of his gun in the wound to try and get some information. All the while, there is no blood coming from the wounds or is visible anywhere on or around his body. While I’m not a doctor, I believe a wound in the abdomen would probably squirt blood like a fountain. The floor and both men should have been covered in blood. This may make me sound like a bloodthirsty ghoul but the reality of the situation called for some red fluid to be scattered about and it wasn’t. It makes the movie seem more like a high school play than a studio action film.

Another problem with the action is the way it is shot: Close camera, lots of edits and a shaky perspective. This is my trifecta of hate when it comes to movies and action scenes. This style is probably used to hide some things about the action such as the speed of the movements and the need to throw punches that don’t land. I can understand this but other stunt coordinators are able to simulate realistic fights that don’t require putting the camera a half inch from the actors and on a paint shaker.

While “Taken 3” is a kind of middle-aged man wish fulfillment, it often stretches credibility past the breaking point when it comes some of Bryan’s escapes from certain death. Without giving too much away, Bryan seems to be able to disappear and reappear at will. One car crash is shot in such a way that he couldn’t have escaped yet we are shown him doing just that in a flashback. While running from the police, Bryan just happens to run into a house with a trapdoor that leads to the sewers. Did he know the people in the house so he’d know the escape route is there? I don’t know as the movie doesn’t tell us. “Taken 3” also depends on many of Bryan’s plans going exactly as he expects; otherwise, he’s dead. He rarely has to improvise once he escapes the initial attempt to arrest him and even then, things always fall his way. If the moviemakers want us to care about Bryan that means we need to worry about him as well as like him. If he’s never in any serious trouble (even though we know he will probably survive to the end of the film) the audience won’t need to worry about his welfare. All heroes need to be in a certain amount of peril for us to empathize with them. While we don’t think about it from moment to moment, we are all in danger every second of our lives. Whether its crime, accidents, illness, asteroid/comet impact, other natural disasters or slipping in the tub, we all live with a certain amount of danger in our lives. Not to the extreme of the characters in the “Taken” movies but some bit of peril hangs over us every day. If Bryan isn’t tied up, beaten up, shot or otherwise imperiled, he is too much like a superhero and not enough like us.

“Taken 3” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence/action and brief strong language. There are numerous fights and shooting in the film. The most graphic is one where a thug forces Bryan’s gun into his mouth and shoots himself. While there is a great deal of broken glass and shattered furniture in the film, there is no significant amount of blood and no gore. Foul language is scattered and limited largely to “s–t.” The film doesn’t take advantage of its one ratings-allowed “F-bomb.”

“Taken 3” could be looked at as another example of how Hollywood has run out of ideas. How many ways can someone connected to Bryan Mills be “taken” and how many ways are there for him to beat up and kill a bunch of nameless thugs to rescue them. It turns out there aren’t enough to fill up the running time of a third movie. “Taken 3” lacks originality, is painfully predictable and looks like it was edited with a food processor. The script, action and plot are all weak and despite Liam Neeson’s efforts the movie is a bit of a bore.

“Taken 3” gets two stars out of five.

This week, there are best men, snipers, hackers, detectives and bears on the menu.  I’ll review at least one of these films next week.

American Sniper–

Blackhat–

Inherent Vice–

Paddingon–

The Wedding Ringer–

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send email to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

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