Taken 3

I was thinking…

…we are so inundated with sequels on a yearly basis, I don’t even question whether or not a given movie is going to spawn a set of films of the same name with the very unimaginative addition of a number. It’s pretty much a given at this point. More often than not–and both film and box office history will back me up on this one–the sequels pale in comparison to their progenitor. Taken 3 has proven to be a perfect example of this all too frequent occurrence.

Like many other fans of the action genre, I was impressed and delighted by the original Taken. Liam Neeson starred as the ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills, whose only child is abducted by white slavers while vacationing in France. As the writer, Luc Besson, is from France, it’s a wonder why he’d use his home country as the source of this horrific encounter, but perhaps he was just being realistic. Anyway, Mills warns the abductors of his daughter that he has “a particular set of skills” acquired through a long career of kicking tushy and he’s about to unleash those skills on the sex-slaver douche bags.

Costing a modest $25 million to make, the film grossed more than nine times that amount, and rightly so, in my humble opinion. It was action-packed, intense and fast-paced, if not at all cerebral. The only weak part was that it was too short. I wanted the papa bear rampage to continue for another 20 minutes at least. So, when Taken 2 was announced, it was met with such an anticipatory audience it garnered over $150 million more than its predecessor. But although it was also written by Besson and Robert Kamen, it still just felt like a sequel–a child trying to live up to the expectations of its parent and, like most children, ending up as a slight disappointment instead.

Taken 3, like the photocopy of a photocopy, feels even further removed from the original. Mills’ ex-wife, Lenore, played by Famke Janssen (X-Men, Goldeneye), seeks to rekindle her relationship with Mills, much to the chagrin of Lenore’s a-hole of a second husband Stuart (Dougray ScottHitman, MI2). The fact that Stuart was re-cast from Xander Berkeley, is already a finger pointing at something wrong within the world. Whether because of payroll issues or lack of faith in the film, any time a primary or secondary character is recast partway through a franchise, it’s a sign that there are problems with the project. Transformers 3, anyone? Anyway, Stuart (the new Stuart) owes a significant amount of money to a Russian mobster, Lenore is murdered and Mills is framed for it. So, I guess Lenore is “taken” in the sense that she was taken from this mortal coil? Kind of weak, I know.

On some level, I don’t believe there was much hope for this film from the start. I think that’s why its release was not widely announced until only two months before. Other than the weak plot, the weaker script, and the lackluster soundtrack, the team of editors and cinematographer were poorly chosen. Every car chase, every foot chase and every gun battle (the latter of which there is a paltry sum) was shot and edited with such seizure-inducing rapidity, it begs the question: Were the separate takes of each action sequence so poorly or unimaginatively shot the editors believed they could trick the audience into a raised heart rate by cutting together shots at a rate of–and I’m not exaggerating here–five shots per second?

Think about that. Five shots per second.

Furthermore, the angles of these shots change with such frequency it would take an astronaut with 1000 hours of spacewalk time to keep track of from which end of the hallway the bad guys are shooting, or just how many cars are involved in the chase. I understand it’s difficult to faithfully convey a chaotic situation through film, but sending certain members of the audience into epileptic fits is not the way to do it.

I haven’t even begun to talk about the choice of antagonists. The two most frightening characters they could think up of were a billionaire industrialist and a Russian mobster who frequents Dr. Octopus‘ barber. Oh, and for anyone planning on writing an award-winning story, I give this small bit of advice: if you want your bad guys to be taken seriously, don’t have them engage in a climactic hand-to-hand battle in their tighty-whities. No amount of gun play or martial arts know-how will ever make your audience stop laughing at the absurdity of a tattooed man engaged in fisticuffs whilst donning underwear males should cease wearing the moment their voices break.

All that and Bryan Mills never even gets to use his signature threat. It’s like watching a Die Hard movie and not hearing John McClane say, “Yippee ki-yay, etc.” It’s just plain wrong.

And for the life of me I cannot understand why a film that takes place entirely in Los Angeles, the film capital of the world, was filmed mostly in Spain, France and Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time the folks in California took a long, hard look at their tax laws…or the Teamsters Union…or both.

I’m not even going to delve into the controversy involving Liam Neeson and his rather uneducated and ill-advised words regarding guns. Suffice it to say, don’t bite the hand that feeds you, Liam.

But Taken 3 does have its good moments. It is quickly paced and there’s a fair amount of butt kicking. But it, like so many sequels before it, has proven that a quality sequel is still the exception and not the rule.

Oh, one more thing. Why is it that the guy who knocks up Mills’ daughter is the only guy who doesn’t get his teeth knocked into the back of his throat? That was just disappointing.

Ammo Dump rating: 4 out of 10 bullets.

Taken 3
Rated PG-13
Run time: 109 minutes

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