– Summary –
Director : Olivier Megaton
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Leland Orser, John Gries, David Warshovsky, Johnny Weston, Don Harvey, Dylan Bruno, Al Spienza.
Approx Running Time : 109 Minutes
Synopsis: After his wife is murdered by the same Euro scumbags he’s been offing for the last two films, Liam Neeson takes it up to them in a last stand fight to the death that’ll tear Los Angeles a new one.
What we think : Anemic direction obliterates Neeson’s Taken franchise with surety and swift vengeance. Tak3n is a plain, uneven, pointless action flick, lacking any sense of genuine threat or convincing motivation other than “stuff needs to happen to sell tickets”. Neeson looks bored, Megaton’s direction is both clumsy and wasteful, and everyone else recedes into the background of a story as generic as most of these kinds of movies seem to be. Yawn.
Why do they call it “taken” if nobody.. you know, gets taken?
So I guess this is the one where they just blow everything up, right? The rules of a trilogy usually indicate a big, bigger, biggest mantra, at least by Hollywood standards. After the relatively low-key approach to Liam Neeson’s career spike flick, Taken, and the rapid-fire yet utterly mindless sequel, Taken 2, I approached the third installment with a great deal of trepidation – Taken’s mandate to rip through Paris with as much realistic violence as possible was a shot of adrenaline to this action-junkie’s veins, whilst the sequel staggered and spurted itself across the screen in a hodgepodge of shitty writing and even shittier direction. So I didn’t have much hope that Neeson’s Taken franchise was headed for a great send-off considering the dude behind the camera for Taken 2 was once again helming this one. Neeson, as dependably sincere as ever, seems to have taken a Harrison Ford or Bruce Willis approach to his action-movie roles, in that he merely sleepwalks through them now, where once he summoned at least some glimmer of interest in the end result. So what of Tak3n, a curiously labelled title that sets our hero with that particular set of skills up against the Big Boss Level fight of his life, to finally free his family from the focus of so much Eastern European hatred?
I’d like to say Tak3n is a return to form for both Neeson and the franchise, but that would be a lie. Tak3n is neither. It’s a debacle of a film, an empty, purposeless action vehicle designed to discombobulate and disorient more than it is to entertain. In place of cohesive action and a restrained yet potent action style, “director” Olivier Megaton delivers a film so discordant, so abominably designed to aggravate and annoy, it’s hard to fathom how they could slap a “taken” moniker on it and take people’s money. For a guy with a name like “Megaton”, you’d expect him to be competent (a fact I’ve stated often enough in my reviews of his films) but for a man of such an inept directorial style, to continue ruining once-great franchises (he turned Jason Statham’s Transporter series from a fairly slick B-movie franchise to a dog-turd nobody could stand) it’s a wonder he still has a career. Must have some photos of somebody screwing a dog or something.
Anyway, back to Tak3n (yeah, that’s how I’m typing this stupid title all the way through, because it’s just so damn cool looking to see a 3 in the middle in place of an E…. oh man, what marketing genius decided that?), a film that offers to wrap up Bryan Mills’ story with a bang. Oh, there’s bang here, and probably more than the film deserves, since it’s such a clumsy action entry that defies logic and even common sense. It’s the kind of film you’d half expect Robert Deniro show show up in because he’s Robert f@cking Deniro and he made The Godfather 2 and Raging Bull and has been coasting on that shit with “comedy” films ever since. Deniro doesn’t appear, and the film is the worse for it, actually.
Liam Neeson is a dependably convincing Good Guy. He’s got his flaws, but he can kick heads like nobody else. He’s dependable because now that we’ve sat through multiple iterations of this schtick, it’s become old hat. But, like Jason Statham, at least you know what you’ll be getting when you sit your ass in the seat. Tak3n doesn’t deliver much new by way of action, nor does it stretch any of its cast to perform with anything remotely resembling human conviction; this is a pure explosion ride that eschews the first film’s restrained visceralness and elevates mindless, cock-stroking masculinity to a degree not seen outside gay porn.
Neeson’s Mills is “framed” by persons unknown for the death of his ex-wife, Lenore (Janssen), leaving Mills to try and protect his daughter, the worlds oldest looking teenager, Kim (Maggie Grace), from also being targeted. Pursuing him for Leonore’s murder is LA Police Inspector Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), while Kim finds her relationship with her stepfather, Leonore’s “new” husband, Stuart (Xander Berkeley played the role in the original film, but was replaced in Tak3n by a vastly different-looking Dougray Scott) fraying as she suspects him of somehow being complicit in Lenore’s death. The opening half of Tak3n is your typical chase film, as Mills takes on the entire LA police force, but also does some solid detective work on his own to track down Lenore’s killers. The latter half is “Bryan’s revenge”, as he takes it up to the Bad Guys.
Action film scripter Robert Mark Kamen has his fingerprints all over this, and in the hands of a competent direction the film might be really rather exciting, if a little perfunctory. Mills’ personality from the first film has been replaced by a robotic, unenthusiastic charade of a “human”, displaying a join-the-dots-for-the-audience depth of a Kardashian autobiography. Neeson looks bored here, going through the motions simply for the paycheck, and Bryan Mills’ arc doesn’t have much to do with anything at all. Maggie Grace is once more given terrible service by a script designed to make her as weak a character as possible – after her grenade throwing escapades in Taken 2, some market research gathering must have given the producers the idea nobody wanted to see her be the hero, so in Tak3n she’s reduced to the age-old cliche of “Running and Screaming and Crying”, in that order.
Forest Whitaker also looks bored (but then, he always looks like that in most of his films these days) as the LA police detective tasked with investigating Mills. Whitaker has played this kind of role before – it’s a flagpole salute for him to deliver a clever, socially introverted but demanding cop who is possibly the equal to Mills’ Black Ops training. Dougray Scott can’t understand what’s going on, he has a perpetually confused look plastered across his mug the whole time. The rest of the film is populated by a faceless cavalcade of henchmen, cannon-fodder cops and passers-by, most of whom look as confused to be in the film as everyone else.
Even with a story that could have worked better, Olivier Megaton’s slam-bang direction and heavy-handed editorial prejudice ruins what little interest Tak3n has going for it. Every action moment must be displayed through the edit of a hundred different camera angles, all frantically sped-up or over-cranked and ratcheting up the “shaky cam” work when there’s explosions or gunfire. Megaton’s inability to just show us what’s going on through a single shot, or maybe even three, is particularly jarring. Editing for an effect is okay, but Tak3n’s use of a hundred edits for a single moment in a film is awful. Plus, the action just isn’t that exciting. Sure, Neeson pummels his way through numerous policemen, drives his way out of a car chase via the use of an elevator shaft (don’t ask) and takes down a plane using another vehicle, all of which sounds like standard action-movie material, but Megaton can’t make it work like it should.
Mixing it with the slew of other action films released each year, Tak3n doesn’t do much to separate itself from the herd. It’s a largely unsurprising story (none of the “twists” work like they should) and with Megaton’s tone-deaf direction and overuse of the editing bay and handycam-styled filming techniques, this sequel runs into the ground before it even gets up any speed. If only for Neeson’s particular set of skills still looking so damn awesome, Tak3n is a bit of a failure.