Saturday, January 17, 2015

Film Review: Taken 3 (2014)

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
The Taken franchise seemed very interesting back in 2008, when it brought a cool and minimal plot, featuring the ideally cast Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, an ex-something-dangerous-and-murder-enabled man, but also a dad whose daughter gets kidnapped in Paris. The rest of the film covered Bryan hunting and killing his way to the end goal.

In this constellation, Taken worked perfectly while it balanced between ultraviolence and a regular action thriller. Neeson, who became very proficient in this type of role, which variation was recently seen in the A Walk Among the Tombstones, added the right kind of style and sealed the deal. The sequel pretty much did the same thing, but Taken 3, the ending of the trilogy, goes completely off its old playbook and because of that, ruins the fun.

Now, Bryan is his home in the Los Angeles area, where he lives separated from his wife, trying to be a good dad to her college-going daughter. One day, all this goes to hell when he comes back home and finds something terrible in his bed. The police burst in, believing he is responsible for the crime they find. Bryan does his ex-something Kung-Fu and flees the scene, determined to get to the truth by producing a pile of corpses that belong to one or another East-European crime syndicate.

Director of the film, Olivier Megaton, definitely made two huge mistakes that gutted this film of much fun. First one is a strange editing process which destroys every car-chase scene with a badly positioned camera (that is too close to the vehicles) and fast, maniacal cuts that stack up until the vehicles finally come to a halt. In every car sequence, the same thing occurs as if Megaton thought that he needed to cover bad stunt driving scenes by cutting everything in milliseconds and filling it with tons of motion blur effect. But then, weirdly, the ending car chase was shot and edited perfectly, apart from the fact that its setup is very original (this is the best element of the film by far).

The other problematic feature of Taken 3 is its lack of narrative direction. First half an hour are filled with family drama that builds tension, but also muddies the waters when it comes to defining a clear antagonist of the story (which is a necessity in these setups). Later, it mutates in a Fugitive-type of film, where Bryan dodges cops and investigates gas stations, making us wonder who he is really fighting against. Somewhat of a similar mashup can be seen in Cold in July, only Taken 3 doesn’t have its strange but strong charm. Instead of rushing through this part of the story, Megaton takes it slow, killing with this the winning and recognizable Taken dynamic.

It tries to go for red herring characters, but this comes off as a waste of time and completely nullifies the laser-precise plot development of the first film. Taken 3 full movie feels like an action film that struggles with this fact and covertly aspires to be something more. The character of Franck Dotzler, played by Forest Whitaker, is a good example of this thought. Whitaker performs Dotzler in a solid manner, but his purpose in the film turns out to be nothing more than stealing screen-time from the real bad guys.

With a slow, watered-down script and a few sub-standard action scenes, Taken 3 ends the series on a very low note.