I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Taken 3

tn_taken3Unfortunately TAKEN 3 is an uninspired new sausage from the Besson/Kamen factory. Liam Neeson’s ruthless ex-CIA family man character Bryan Mills returns for his first adventure not related to the endless circle of violence caused by his daughter getting kidnapped on a trip to Europe. This time it’s the go-to action movie bad guys of today, the Russian mafia (see also THE EQUALIZER, JOHN WICK, SAFE, DRIVEN TO KILL) who (SPOILER THAT’S IN THE TRAILER) kill poor Lenore (Famke Janssen), Mills’s ex-wife and mother of Kim (Maggie Grace) and who he sort of still has a thing for. The cops show up and it kinda looks like he did it so he beats them up and goes on the run so that he can prove that he didn’t do what it now really really looks like he did.

Even more than part 1 and part 2, part 3 leans heavily on the non-action movie family stuff. There’s a whole lot of time spent showing that he has a good relationship now with his daughter and ex-wife and gets along with his daughter’s boyfriend and tries to help Lenore with her problems with her second husband Stuart (Dougray Scott). I guess at this point I sort of have to admire that Besson cares so much about these characters, or thinks we do, but it’s not like this is real deep observations about relationships. And besides, UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY will always be the definitive action sequel where an old asskicker gives a giant teddy bear to a female relative and it’s awkward because she’s way too old for it.

Here’s something unique about this movie. It has a part where Mills is fighting to the death with an ex-Spetnatz (“they’re like our Navy SEALs”) gangster, he’s got his hand around his throat and he yells, unironically, “You killed my ex-wife!” I like that about it. It would be better if he hadn’t had dreams of getting back together with his ex, but still. It’s nice that the separated parents learned to get along so well that he avenges her death.

mp_taken3Having already been through this in the other two I didn’t need to be disappointed that the action scenes here are total shaky bullshit, but it’s too bad. I thought director Olivier Megaton, who prematurely killed the TRANSPORTER series by not receiving proper camera training before directing part 3, had at least gotten a little better. COLOMBIANA was pretty fun. But I guess there must be some memo going around Hollywood that Liam Neeson fans never want to be sure if they saw him throat punch somebody or not. That’s the secret to his popularity, they believe.

Although the other two are far from great movies, they each have a sense of “are you kidding me?” absurdity to make them fun. The first one has its ridiculous paranoid and overprotective portrait of fatherhood, not to mention introducing the Liam Neeson Talking Badass On a Phone trope and the entire modern age of old man action movies. The second one cleverly flips the premise of the first one (now he’s been kidnapped and has to use the phone to talk his daughter through saving him), it’s a pretty good illustration of how revenge begats revenge begats revenge, and it has that hilarious notion of making his daughter throw a grenade off a rooftop across town in order to hear the explosion and estimate the distance. Part 3, sadly, is mostly more normal.

Let me attempt to explain the stupidest part of the movie, and therefore arguably the best:

In the beginning, Mills surprise-visits Kim three days before her birthday to prove that he’s not as predictable as she always says. Her boyfriend teases, saying that she’s one to talk, she has such a routine that every day she goes to the same store at the same time before class and buys a peach yogurt drink and she always takes the fourth row third from the back (or something like that) so it will be the right temperature. Mills understands and says he would do the same thing, the family is kinda OCD.

And then when Mills is on the run she does go to get that peach drink and finds a note on it saying to drink it right there, which she does. Then during class she gets nauseated and goes to the restroom and he’s in the stall. He explains that he put something in her drink to make her nauseated so she’d go to the bathroom, and he gives her an antidote.

All that to get her to meet him in the bathroom! Forget about why he needed her to drink it without paying, or how he knew it would really make her nauseated, or that she would go to the restroom instead of home, or which restroom she would go to. Why didn’t he just write “meet me in the restroom” on the drink? I don’t want to invalidate all his hard work, but I feel like the poisoning was unnecessary.

Unfortunately that’s the most particular skill he uses in this one. I mean, there’s some badass stuff. Somehow escaping a catastrophic car crash, for example. And it’s kind of funny that we’re supposed to believe that he’s doing a bunch of parkour when he escapes the police at the beginning. There was even one fight scene where it held one of the shots for nearly half a second and I could almost make out the younger guy wearing the leather jacket and wig. And I do have to give it credit for having Mills call on his barbecue buddies like Leland Orser to help out. I’ve been hoping for that since part 1 so I gotta appreciate it when they follow through.

There are bits here and there of decent action movie technique, at least in the writing stages. I like the dumb little flashbacks that keep coming up to explain how Mills did some cool thing earlier. I like how Stuart gives a ridiculously detailed explanation of the layout of the gangster’s building that’s used as narration in the leadup to Mills having to infiltrate it. And there’s a bit of a Just How Badass Is He. Or at least he’s referred to as being like a ghost. And it’s cool that Stuart mentions the events of parts 1-2 in hushed tones to the police. It’s true, it is pretty relevant information that this guy killed an entire sex trafficking ring and their families. This probly should’ve been the first thing to bring up in the murder investigation, actually.

Side note: I swear the opening night audience was more than half women, mostly not accompanied by men. I thought that was interesting. Almost as interesting as the size of the bathroom stall they meet in. I’m gonna guess this is not a reflection of all women’s restrooms, but the particular college she goes to. It’s probly on the list of best bathroom schools. Also, because they’re so detail oriented both father and daughter know the best bathroom stall on campus and that’s why they both end up there.

Forest Whitaker (BLOODSPORT) plays the cop in charge of the manhunt, but he doesn’t do a Tommy Lee Jones imitation. He’s more your typical Whitaker soft-spoken odd genius type. He has two bits of actor business that he does in most of his scenes: wraps a rubber band around his fingers and wrist, and fumbles with a wooden knight piece from a chess set. I suppose those could’ve been in the script but I figure Whitaker probly showed up and said “Here’s how I see the character. He’s a guy that plays with a rubber band. But also he plays with a chess piece.” Or maybe only the chess piece was in the script, and he said “Okay, I’ll do it, but on one condition: I also gotta play with a rubber band.”

But you know, there’s a part in the trailer where Whitaker is on the phone with Mills telling him what law enforcement is gonna do to try to get him, and he says “good luck.” And of course it’s a play on the famous scene/trailer from part 1 where he tells the kidnappers he’s going to find them and kill them. The actual TAKEN 3 is edited differently though, it doesn’t make that reference and come to think of it Mills doesn’t even instruct people on the phone that much. What, is he trying to stretch out or something? Doesn’t he know talking tough on the phone is his Van Damme doing the splits?

If I understand the ending correctly, Whitaker’s character quickly figured out that he didn’t do it and how to prove it. So his beating up cops and going on the run was as bad of an idea as common sense would tell you it was. He ran around and killed a bunch of people and endangered his daughter again for no reason, he only made everything worse. If Besson means this as kind of a satirical idea (which is possible) he doesn’t make it obvious.

The ads are calling this the final chapter. If that’s true it’s really leaving us hanging. Is he really gonna wait for Stuart to get out of prison and then track him down and kill him? Did those Albanians who he knew would come try to kill him after part 2 ever show up? What happened to that pop star from part 1? Does Kim still keep in touch with her? Is her music still popular? So many questions!

But that’s okay, we all know we don’t need a T4KEN. But thank you Luc Besson for opening this new chapter in Neeson’s career which hopefully he’ll find something better to do with.

p.s. For the record I went and saw SELMA first today, then TAKEN 3. So I’m a good American. I just figured you guys would want to see a TAKEN 3 review first.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, January 10th, 2015 at 1:12 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

42 Responses to “Taken 3”

  1. I’ll see any non-Taken Neeson vehicle sight unseen now. His track record there has gotten so good, between your THE GREYs and NON-STOPs and A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONESes. But I think of him as doing the Takens just so he can get a big payday & keep his brand strong, and I haven’t bothered seeing 2 or 3. I might’ve if your review was good, but now I know I don’t have to bother.

  2. Saw this yesterday. The fight scenes here are the worst kind of shaky cam.

  3. I like these TAKEN movies, but I’ve learned to wait for the unrated cuts. I saw the international version of the first one months before the movie finally hit American theaters and thought it was a really great, lean, mean meat-and-potatoes action thriller. Then the PG-13 cut comes out over here and, while it makes a shitload of money, all of the action fans I know hate it. I couldn’t figure out why until I saw the version they saw. Then I saw the PG-13 cut of the second one and thought it was lame. A few months later, I buy the unrated Blu-ray and I find it much tougher and more enjoyable. So I’m sure in four months I’ll see TAK3N in an extended version with three or four frames of violence restored to every action beat and I’ll like it just fine.

  4. But thank you Luc Besson for opening this new chapter in Neeson’s career which hopefully he’ll find something better to do with.

    Yes, but it seems like a typecast straightjacket. That airplane one he did with Julianne Moore and Corey Stoll could have been Mills. It would have been cute to thread… looking it up… “Nonstop” as a sort of “Taken 2.5” chapter, very little story changes would be needed. Rather than an air marshal he just happened to be on the plane. It was the plane he was taking to meet his daughter in the beginning of this movie.

    But if Liam Neeson spends the next 10 years making aging tough guy films, I’d watch the good ones, it’s not a bad straightjacket for him and it pays well, good for him.

    Perhaps though he should find a role against type to play next.

    Or do something with the aging tough guy genre to take it into new realms. I don’t know… he’s a retired gay cop who just got married and they kidnap his husband.

    Give us the Selma review!

    And its Spetsnaz, not Spetnatz.

  5. DM – Interesting you say that since those movies were based off a persona that Neeson established in TAKEN. Allegedly Neeson had passed on TAKEN 3 but only came back when he was given $20 million, which is A-list money. I mean good for him, but I wished it wasn’t for a grade-A piece of shit like this. TAKEN 3 was so dull and cookie-cut, with gibberish action scenes and no pleasure in set-up/delivery. If I want a recent movie with a guy demolishing Russian mobsters that’s never boring, I would rather watch JOHN WICK again.

    Did anybody see the trailer for RUN ALL NIGHT? From the same director who did UNKNOWN and NON-STOP, so he knows how to make decent star vehicles for Neeson. He should take notes from Eastwood and (prime-era) Schwarzenegger in finding great little scripts/books to adapt to mold into your successful formula.

    “Perhaps though he should find a role against type to play next.”

    BR B – Like A MILLON WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST? From what I understand it’s not a good movie.

  6. I saw this tonight… was I just confused or…

    …I guess it is sort of a spoiler maybe though not really…

    …did they say the main Russian guy was a soldier when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and become a mobster or whatever after the Soviet Union collapsed? Because I’m pretty sure that guy was still wearing diapers when the Soviet’s invaded Afghanistan.

  7. You know what’s exciting about seeing the RUN ALL NIGHT trailer before this? Rated R for violence, language, etc. Somebody I know was making fun of it for looking exactly like TAKEN, which is of course not at all true. He plays a gangster and he’s teamed with Joel Kinnamon, who I liked in REROBOCOP, so that’s cool. And Ed Harris is the bad guy. And it looks like it’s basically OUT FOR JUSTICE in reverse, he killed Ed Harris’s son and he has to survive the night. It’s OUT FROM JUSTICE.

  8. To me this is like a modern Death Wish or Dirty Harry series. You know the actors have better work in them, but you still want to see that signature character trotted out every few years.

    The Grey, A Walk Among The Tombstones, and hell even Non-Stop may be more interesting films for Neeson, but I’ll take Bryan Mills’ paranoia and OCD over another washed-up alcoholic any day. I also love the fact that he’s this badass specialist, yet his daughter is a complete goofball instead of some tough-as-nails tomboy. Her character in particular adds a lot of nonsense that reminds me of 80’s action, such as the milkshakes and singing lessons of the first Taken.

    Sure, there’s no reason other than financial to continue, but then that’s the kind of thing I grew up on. I definitely wouldn’t fault Neeson if he decided to cash in a couple more times on this franchise.

  9. Such a perfect review. I still managed to maintain enough goodwill to have fun. But these movies are just too bloodless to fully satisfy.

  10. It’s funny how TAKEN, a movie that still feels relatively recent to me, is already on it’s second sequel, I’m getting old.

  11. The Original Paul

    January 11th, 2015 at 6:39 am

    Griff – it’s not you, it’s the fact that Hollywood now wants to rush out a sequel to anything that looks halfway profitable, regardless of whether or not there’s enough time to actually make it good.

    I wouldn’t want NON-STOP, which I very much enjoyed despite its absurdity (hell, probably because of its absurdity) to be another TAKEN film. I’m a sucker for a good whodunnit. There are very few of them out there; there are a helluva lot of not-very-good movies where some American guy takes on a bunch of black / Eastern European / British / other non-American racial villain for the sake of revenge / rescuing his daughter / reuniting with his wife / whatever. When they’re done well (cough-DIEHARD-cough) they’re great, but too damn often they’re just an excuse for churning out cookie-cutter action movies with little redeeming features. Which is pretty much the vibe I’m getting from TAKEN 3 from Vern’s review and the comments here.

    Look, I’m a fan of good action cinema. I like it best when it does something new or surprising. I liked MAN OF TAI CHI best when it was a parable about how much of ourselves and our privacy we’re willing to sacrifice without really understanding the consequences. Without that, it would’ve been a well-filmed action movie (albeit with Keanu Reeves playing a Satan-metaphor instead of a Jesus-one, which is pretty fun.) It was the new stuff it brought to the table that made it better than just merely “good” for me.

    I haven’t seen TAKEN 2 by the way. (I did see TAKEN eventually… thought it was ok.) Looks like I’m gonna skip TAKEN 3.

    By the way, I’ve read several reviews of TAKEN 3 and every single one of them mentioned the camerawork being far too shaky. Looks like a lot more people are catching onto this whole novelty “action direction should be about showing you action” concept.

  12. Nice catch on Forest Whitaker’s use of idiosyncratic tics. My guess is that Whitaker has played this same role so often (Bloodsport, The Last Stand, and probably something else) that he had to make it interesting for himself. I too have noticed that more and more film reviews are taking note as to how action is shot and whether or not there’s too much shaky cam. I think Vern’s crusade is starting to really pay off.

  13. Paul, you are greatly exaggerating the current era’s sequel problem. In the number of years TAKEN has existed, FRIDAY THE 13th had seven sequels. NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET had five. ROCKY was up to part four. There were seven James Bond movies (not counting the first CASINO ROYALE) in that same amount of time. In a comparable span in the 60s and early 70s, there were nine Godzilla movies. The average timespan between sequels used to be about a year. Now (with certain exceptions like easy-to-produce horror franchises) the time seems to be two and a half to three years. They keep more original cast members and maintain way more continuity than they used to, which to me indicates a desire to, if not make better movies, at least protect the integrity of their brand so as not to burn out any future earning potential. So I think you’re off base here. If anything, far more effort is put into sequels than ever before.

  14. Loved the first TAKEN. Haven’t seen the others. If you don’t like them, you might hate MY NEW ACTION
    FEATURE — LOL

    MY ACTION TRAILER WATCH HERE:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm5A6G_NeoU&feature=youtu.be

  15. From the makers of BIRDEMIC and THE ROOM?

  16. But if Liam Neeson spends the next 10 years making aging tough guy films, I’d watch the good ones, it’s not a bad straightjacket for him and it pays well, good for him.

    C’mon Darkman reboot!

  17. Yeah, now would be time for him to return to Darkman.

    “JUST TAKE THE FUCKING ELEPHANT!”

  18. If you haven’t seen Taken 3 yet, don’t bother. Even if you can see it for free, don’t watch it, especially if you have fond memories of the first one. Taken, at least the European cut, was great, Taken 2 was semi-enjoyable, but mainly just embarrassing, but Taken 3 is a travesty, everything about it is terrible. I hated it, it’s rare that i walk out a cinema angry, but i did with this piece of utter rubbish. A couple in front of me, who sat gazing into each other’s eyes for most of the film, started cheering and clapping very loudly when the credits started rolling. They must not have seen much of the film, either that or they were just morons. A girl sitting behind me was so overcome by the hilariously hamfisted “emotional” final scene that she started sobbing uncontrollably. Anyway, the film is the final nail in the coffin of the Taken series, it’s a disgusting cashgrab that sums up all of the lowest common denominator crap Besson has been “writing” (most likely on the back of a matchbook) for the past few years, and will hopefully kill Megaton’s career stone dead. He is the worst director working today, and it’s telling that nobody apart from Besson will employ him. Awful, awful film, avoid at all costs.

    Also, i looke dup the actor who plays the Russian villain, he was born in 1977, which would have made him 2 years old when he was supposedly running around Afghanistan leading a Spetsnaz unit. Luc Besson is an idiot, and i feel like one for actually paying to have my intelligence insulted like this.

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  20. The whole time I watched this, I was thinking about how it might make more sense when its released unrated. Most of the action was fucking horrendous, the worst for the series possibly, save the part when he rams the porsche against the wheel of the plane- I really enjoyed that. Mainly what saved this one for me was Forest Whitaker with that rubberband. I loved him in this. Anyway, I enjoy the serious tone of these ridiculous movies enough, that I’d say I liked it (maybe more than part 2), but the bluray will be better, and anyway, this Run All Night movie looks like it might be cool right out of the gate.

  21. Vern, what would you say was the average age of the women at the theater? I have theorized for some time now that women in their 50 or older are a big part of the success of the Taken franchise and Nesson’s other recent action vehicles. It is the fans of NELL that support the Taken franchise at the box office. Look at the Bryan character, if you strip away his special set of skills his character ark resembles something out of a life time movie. He is a handsome older man that has struggled as a father and husband that is trying to make amends for his mistakes and be a better father. He is even trying to patch things up with his ex wife. I guess what I am trying to say is Bryan Mills is everybodys Moms favorite action hero.

  22. My mom’s more of a Seagal gal.

  23. Blah, I started hating this series with the second one which was the same exact film as the first. The first is the only one worth anything. I decided to ignore these Liam Neeson action films because they are all the same, he knows a lot, he’s ten steps ahead of the bad guys, and he’s nearly indestructible. Repeat adnauseum on every single Liam Neeson after Taken….then there’s the Taken Clones like Three Days to Kill…Kevin Costner trying to pull off the same trick Neeson did…but failing horribly at it. Even Denzel fell in the same trap of play the indestructible good guy in The Equalizer, but so is the nature of Hollywood.

  24. “Indestructible good guy who’s ten steps ahead of the bad guys” is hardly some new shit they made up for Liam Neeson movies. That’s pretty much Action Movie Mechanics 101 right there.

  25. Mr. M, your mom has good taste.

  26. Film Connoisseur, I would argue that the entire Taken franchise and pretty much all of Neeson’s action films post 2000 are uninspired riffs on the type of action films Seagal made in the 90’s. The only one that I have really enjoyed is THE GREY. Actually, I am hoping Neeson is going to start teaming with rappers in his films like Seagal did in the early 2000’s (DMX=EXIT WOUNDS & Nas=TICKER). I am keeping my fingers crossed if there is a T4KEN they add Busta Rhymes to the cast. I would rather rewatch OUT FOR JUSTICE for the one millionth time then ever watch a Taken film.

  27. The Original Paul

    January 12th, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Majestyk – good points actually. I did not realise that the ROCKY or FRIDAY 13th movies came out in so short a timespan.

  28. The Original Paul

    January 12th, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Film Connoisseur – I think you underestimate a few of Neeson’s films. NON-STOP was the best whodunnit I saw in the cinema this year. Yeah, it was preoposterous, but it was also well-put-together and well-acted. THE GREY was very good and would’ve been great if it wasn’t for the damn shakycam (as usual), and WALK AMONGST THE TOMBSTONES was very well-made and very good in some respects, even though I had some fairly major problems with it in terms of its portrayal of women. Any of those three films is leagues better than TAKEN, and since everybody seems to agree that’s the best of the three TAKEN films, most likely the other two as well.

  29. The Original Paul

    January 12th, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    …Or last year even. Keep forgetting it’s 2015 now.

  30. Paul, I thought NON-STOP was very good for about the first hour, but the third act was pretty lame and kind of ruined it for me.

  31. Non-Stop, The Grey and A Walk Among The Tombstones are million miles ahead of this disgraceful piece of shit. Megaton should do the honourable thing and kill himself as an apology for his career.

  32. Kill himself? That´s a bit harsh isn´t it?

  33. OK, i’ll settle for him killing Luc Besson and spending the rest of his life in prison, unable to get anywhere near a movie camera.

  34. Maybe you can orchestrate an elaborate cockamamie scheme in which that scenario plays out. It worked for Thomas Jane in THE PUNISHER.

  35. Hahaha, yeah, sounds like a plan!

  36. For a moment I was surprised to see someone suggest a filmmaker whose work they didn’t enjoy deserves to die for it, then I remembered that this is still the internet.

  37. The Original Paul

    January 13th, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Charles – I understand that (and it’s not an uncommon sentiment). I don’t agree, but I can absolutely see why people would be disappointed by the stuff like the extraneous-rescue-of-small-child nonsense, the multiple cases of “dead relative syndrome”, etc. None of which spoiled the movie for me, but again, it’s pretty absurd. Mostly I enjoyed the end because whodunnit was so neatly wrapped up, and I respect that (it’s a difficult skill in film – more often than not, whodunnit films can’t do this without either going into tons of exposition or leaving far too much unexplained). I will admit that NON-STOP is probably the weakest of the three, objectively speaking; but it’s also the only one that I’ve actually gone out and bought on DVD after seeing it in the cinema.

  38. Paul, I genuinely enjoy the first half or so of NON-STOP. For about the first hour It is an effective thriller with some clever ideas. I guess that is why the latter half of the film and the payoff were so disappointing to me. It is not even that the third act was terrible, but it felt like a letdown compared to the strong execution of the setup.

    Have you seen GRAND PIANO?

  39. The Original Paul

    January 14th, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Charles – sadly not (Vern’s review pretty much sold me on it from the outset). I’m looking out for it though.

  40. her second husband Stuart (Dougray Scott)

    Woah woah woah, stop the clock.

    Without reading another word of the review (I’ll continue in a moment) and not having seen the movie of course — he’s the bad guy isn’t he? Poor Dougray, so typecast!

  41. “Okay, I’ll do it, but on one condition: I also gotta play with a rubber band.” Too Funny. Great review as always Vern.

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