Monday, January 12, 2015

Movie Review - Taken 3

  I went with Kathy to see ‘Taken 3’ starring Liam Neeson at the local movie theatre on Friday night. I reviewed the Liam Neeson movie ‘A Walk Among The Tombstones’ in September and I found that movie to be so dull I vowed not to see another Neeson ‘action’ movie in the theatres and get them from RedBox instead. I meant it at the time but ‘Taken’ was such a great movie that I felt I had to make an exception to see Neeson reprise his role as super tough guy/spy Bryan Mills and we joined at least 50 other movie goers on the opening weekend.

  Unlike the iconic ‘Taken’ or ‘Taken 2’ no one gets taken and there aren’t any Albanians to battle. Instead Mills has to deal with his ex-wife fantasizing about him during a rough spot in her second marriage and his daughter Kim learning she is pregnant. Mills handles all this upheaval with his typical stoic aplomb but then his ex-wife is murdered in his bed and he finds himself the prime suspect and has to evade the police and his wife’s killers in order to clear his name and take his revenge.

  Neeson plays Mills as the action hero we’ve all come to expect but he appears to be quite out of shape for this movie. In one his getaway scenes he outruns multiple police officers half his age while never running at a faster pace than a slow jog, although he does manage to scale a number of fences at a reasonable speed. Maybe the scenes were slowed down so the viewers could follow along with the action since in one gun battle Mills appears to outrun multiple machine gun barrages sweeping the room.

  Although he has lost some foot speed, Mills’ hand to hand combat skills and endurance are undiminished by age as he takes out multiple armed Russian spetsnaz with various chops, kicks, punches, and headbutts so quickly it’s almost impossible to see with the naked eye.

  I’m just kidding. Neeson looks old and slow but because he is old (62) and slow but since he is Liam Neeson and this is Taken 3, Bryan Mills manages to outrun, out shoot, and outfight all his younger and fitter adversaries. In order to make Mills look faster, director Oliver Megaton switches camera angles continually during every chase and fight. In the beginning of the movie this did make everything look faster. As time wore on and I got used to the technique I noticed that very little action was actually taking place despite the frenetic switching of the camera angles. This technique worked a lot better in Megaton’s 2008 film Transporter 3 and made 40 year old Jason Staham’s martial artistry pop off the screen but I thought it was overused in Taken 3. There are three car crash scenes (into an airplane, down a parking garage elevator shaft, and off a cliff) that are only semi-believable but provide great special effects.

  Except for the disjointed action scenes I thought the pacing was just fine. No one was ‘Taken’ but the plot had a good mixture of tension, action, and intrigue. The chemistry between Mills and his CIA buddies was great as they help him safeguard his daughter and solve the mystery of his ex-wife’s murder. Forest Whitaker plays lead detective Frank Dotzler in an eccentric manner almost as if he’s angling to get his own movie series. Dotzler is only half step behind Mills in unraveling the mystery but spends much of his camera time twirling a chess piece in his fingers or wrapping and unwrapping what may possibly be the world’s most durable rubber band in his fingers (which turns out the rubber band that wraps around the case file).

  Aside from Whitaker, the supporting cast was pretty stereotypical. Whitaker’s top men were played by Don Harvey and Dylan Bruno (Colby from the late lamented Numb3rs television show) as bored bumbling cops who were outwitted by Mills, Mills daughter, and Mills’ CIA friends every step of the way. Sam Spruell played Russian super spetsnaz bad guy Oleg Malankov in the manner of a James Bond villain from the 1960s. Malankov was plenty cruel – he called a business partner to tell him he left him a present which was the partner’s shot up assistant in an office sized safe but also likes the good life. Before his climactic battle with Mills, Malankov is living it up with two girls in his giant hot tub but at a moment’s notice the girls are gone and Malankov roaming his apartment with two assault rifles (stopping to put on his shirt first of course). Spruell made a great Russian bad guy and I would have liked this movie a lot more if he had a more prominent role in it.

  Mills’ ex-wife Lenore (played by Famke Janssen of X-Men fame) and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) give workmanlike performances. Lenore didn’t make too much of the movie before being murdered while Kim was featured as a plot device like the first Taken movie instead of the action oriented role she had in Taken 2. Lenore’s second husband Stuart received a significant upgrade from Taken with the balding and effete Xander Berkely replaced by a younger and more conniving Dougray Scott. I assume that since Stuart wasn’t in Taken 2 he was busy receiving HGH therapy and surgical enhancements.

  As a standalone movie, Taken 3 is a generic action flick that I can’t imagine appealing to people who haven’t seen the previous Taken movies. I would have liked the plot to recognize that Neeson wasn’t up to full speed action instead of chopping up the action with camera angles to make it look like he was full speed. The movie tried hard to follow the pace of Taken where Mills had to conquer increasingly dangerous villains but his encounters with the police kept interrupting the flow of bad guys and the movie would have been better served having one major bad guy for Mills to battle while being hindered by the police. If you are a Taken devotee you will find this movie a lot of fun to watch on the big screen and despite lackluster reviews the movie had the second best January opening weekend ever. If you are not a Taken fan there is nothing here to make you one and this is a Redbox or Wal-Mart $5 bargain bin movie.