Sunday 18 January 2015

Taken 3 (2015) - Movie Review

Even in today’s cinematic day and age, the threequel still presents a challenge both for creators and audiences. In order to keep audiences invested enough to stick it out for a third film based in the same universe, the creators need to create a story that is worthy of being continued for that long for whatever reason. Whether it’s pre-conceived to be a trilogy, like Star Wars or Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations, or it adds on films based on public or studio demand, like The Matrix or Pirates Of The Caribbean, there needs to be that factor that brings people back into theatres. With Taken still well and truly in the current cultural mindset, with it being attached in one way or another to everything Liam Neeson stars in (even prior to Taken retroactively), it does make some sense that this would be chosen for a third installment. Time to see how this supposed final film closes out the series.

The plot: Bryan (Liam Neeson) and Lenore (Famke Janssen) are starting to rekindle their relationship, but Lenore is found in Bryan’s apartment dead with Bryan being framed for the murder. With Inspector Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) hot on his trail and Bryan’s daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and Lenore’s husband Stuart (Dougray Scott) insisting Bryan’s innocence, Bryan must clear his name and get revenge on the real murderer.

Maybe it’s the seven-year disconnect from the first film, or maybe it’s because of how badly Neeson has been typecast since then, but Bryan Mills as a character feels like he’s burning out in this movie. He seems slower on the uptake and not as sharp as in previous installments, almost as if his particular set of skills have been dulled over time. However, with that said, his character does across better here than in previous installments as we get a lot less of Bryan’s more possessive and overprotective moments this time round... Save for one scene where he intentionally poisons his daughter so that he can converse with her in private. The main reason for why he does better here is because this film takes far less time to get into the main action of the story. With the previous films, they’d take their time and spend about half of the film building up to said action, whereas here we get the bare minimum setup before the shit hits the fan.

This is both good and bad: Good, because it shows us less of Bryan’s less favourable traits and the film thankfully uses what little setup it has to show him as an actual decent guy; Bad, because having the film be even more focused on the action than previous installments is a lot more taxing on the viewer. Not to say that said action is bad, as this film has managed to keep its set pieces consistent with the rest of the series in terms of quality, but much like the third Hobbit film it’s too much of a good thing.

The main draw for this film is the cat-and-mouse game between Bryan and Dotzler, which is admittedly very well done. Dotzler is supposed to be the other side of Bryan’s coin, being similarly OCD and meticulous in his work and able to keep up with Bryan at every turn, and Whitaker is a great casting choice for the role. Perhaps a little too good as, given how Neeson does seem to have slowed down a little, Whitaker arguably does better in the role than Neeson does. Sure, Dotzler’s role is a bit heavy-handed (He walks around carrying a white knight chess piece, for crying out loud) but Whitaker at the very least is capable of pulling it off. I freely admit to being a sucker for these kind of character dynamics, and this definitely does it well, but it feels like the writers were getting a little too invested in it.

At best, the plot involving Lenore’s killer comes across more as an afterthought in comparison to the one with Dotzler. At worst, it feels like two separate scripts were written for this movie and Besson and Mark Kamen couldn’t decide which one to go with so they just mashed the two together. The main plot involving who really killed Lenore definitely feels tacked on in either case, and what makes it worse is that this might be one of the rare times when a recast in it of itself is a spoiler alert. *SPOILERS* When you take what was originally a minor character with maybe one or two lines in the original, recast him and give him noticeably more screen time and dialogue, not to mention how they flip-flopped on whether or not he was the actual person behind it all, and the audience gets savvy quite quickly. This isn’t helped by the prologue scene which only makes it even more noticeable.

All in all, while I definitely don’t have as much ire for this film, and admittedly the second film as well, as others, I’m not exactly championing it either. The action is still good, keeping up with the series standard thus far, the acting is good with Neeson still doing good in his role and Whitaker being a great foil for his character and the writing, while definitely having some problems, isn’t as misguided as the attempts at depth in Taken 2. Basically, this manages to succeed the second film purely on the virtue of not trying as hard in the writing department and sticking to what the series does best: Fun, if flawed, action fluff.

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