- Movie Rating -

Taken 3 (2014)

| January 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

There is virtually nothing that lingers in your mind when Taken 3 is over, except for the fact that Forest Whitaker’s character learns to love bagels. It’s true, early in this movie as he’s investigating a murder he opens a bag of warm bagels that has been left at the scene. Then he proceeds to take one out of the bag and eat it after which he declares it ‘delicious’. Of course, I was distracted for the next couple of minutes wondering if that falls under the category of compromising the crime scene. Is he allowed to do that? Later he’s sitting in a diner eating a bagel clearly deep in thought. The man learns to love and appreciate bagels based around the single stupidest plot reveal that I’ve seen in at least a decade.

Why are the bagels so memorable? Because there is literally nothing else in Taken 3 that is worth noting. If you’ve seen a cop show or an action movie in the last 30 years, you’ve already seen all the parts that make up this one, save for the bagels. It’s a badly cobbled together assemblage of pieces and parts that make up something resembling a movie. The action is pointless and generic, and the supporting cast is made up of characters so forgettable that you lose track of which are the cops and which are the criminals. The head bad guy is a cartoonish Russian Mafioso who comes into the movie during the opening scene and then disappears from the movie until the final shoot-out.

Liam Neeson returns – for some reason – as Bryan Mills the former CIA operative whose past in international espionage keeps coming back to haunt him. As the movie opens, he’s sort-of reconciling with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) until her husband Stuart (Dougray Scott) no-so-politely asks him to knock off the reconciling. Neeson and Janssen have a sweet chemistry together that leaves you wondering why they ever split up in the first place. Further, you wonder why she ever married Stuart since he’s a clearly scum from the first moment we meet him.

Without giving away too much, a personal tragedy enters Bryan’s life and he’s found at the scene of a crime, bagels in hand, just as the cops show up. He fights off the cops and goes on the run to clear his name and to solve the crime. What follows is a long, and extremely boring series of events as Bryan goes from action scene to action scene in an attempt to clear his name.

None of this really matters. Taken 3 is put together so badly that there are times when you can hardly tell what’s going on. The action scenes look like they were edited with a paper shredder. Even during a routine foot chase, the images are so crazily edited that you lose track of what you’re supposed to be looking at. Every shot in these scenes lasts less than three seconds. When there isn’t an action scene we’re forced to focus on the story which is so boring and so drawn out that the running time feels like days.

When you can focus on the events in motion, they don’t really matter because then you’re forced to focus on large gaps in common sense. Liam Neeson’s character spends much of the running time getting in and out of situations that are less credible for a CIA operative then they are for a magician. For example, there’s a car chase in which his car is pushed off a cliff. The bad guys watch the car tumble over and over and catch fire. Naturally Neeson escapes. How he escapes is a complete mystery because he way the car tumbles off the cliff leaves no room for him to jump free. Even when it’s explained later you conclude that his escape could only make sense if Scotty beamed him out.

Again, as I have complained many times, Liam Neeson is wasted in movies like this in the same way that Charles Bronson was in his later career with all the Death Wish sequels. Ever since the first Taken movie, Neeson has been molded to fit the empty-headed machismo roles that are wasting his talents. When he’s good, he’s very good. At his best, he can carry the kind of lean quiet masculinity that Gary Cooper had. You can see a lot of that in a great film that came out just four months ago called A Walk Among the Tombstones. There he played a character in a bad situation, but the script allowed him to handle it with intelligence and a degree of world-weary charm. In Taken 3 he’s part of the furniture, a superhuman action hero who evades capture by driving a car backwards down an elevator shaft.  Maybe they should have followed it up by having him going out for bagels.



Run All Night (April 17)
Is it a conflict of interest that I saw a trailer for a Liam Neeson action movie right before seeing a Liam Neeson action movie?  I wouldn’t complain except this movie – in which Neeson plays a hitman trying to keep his former boss Ed Harris from murdering his son apparently in retaliation for having killed his son – doesn’t seem any more or less memorable than Taken 3.  This could go either way, it could be another generic forgettable Liam Neeson action film or it could be another surprise like A Walk Among the Tombstones.  We’ll see.
Will I see it?: Probably not.
Excitement Level: Low

Chappie (March 6)
This sci-fi outing is sold on the fact that it the third go-around for Neill Blomkamp, who has previously directed District 9 (which I liked) and Elysium (which I didn’t like).  What’s clear is that his films have a distinctive style, creating a rusty future in which machines are a hindrance rather than a help.  I admit I’m not completely sold on this E.T.-style plot about the journey of a robot who is kidnapped by two con artists and then later adopted by a dysfunctional family.  I had my doubts about District 9 several years ago, but that one turned out to be a solid film.  So, I’ll reserve judgement until March.
Will I see it?: Probably
Excitement Level: Middling

Furious 7 (April 3)
It’s hard to work up any love for this one because I’ve never seen a Fast and the Furious movie.  I’ve passed on the others more or less out of indifference, but there’s a curiosity factor here in the farewell performance of Paul Walker.  The trailer carefully avoids making too much light of his presence sort of in the same way that Night at the Museum tucked away the presence of Robin Williams.  Not that this will change the quality of the film mind you, I’m just not drumming up any excitement because I’m not much on car chase movies.  I’ll probably pass.
Will I see it?: No
Excitement Level: Low

Unfinished Business (March 6)
I said I’m not much into car chase movies, but I’m even less into Vince Vaughn comedies.  I don’t know, I always just see a guy trying and failing to be Bill Murray.  I miss the old Vince Vaughn, the one that showed great dramatic chops in early films like Return to Paradise and A Cool, Dry Place.  Now he’s just playing the same tired man-child over and over and that sliver of a joke got old five years ago.  Unfinished Business, about  a small business owner who goes to Europe to close an important business deal, doesn’t look any more or less interesting than any other party-dude-man-child comedy.  Pass.
Will I see it?: No
Excitement Level: Low

The Kingsman: The Secret Service (February 13)
20th Century Fox really wants to sell this as the male alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey this Valentine’s Day weekend.  Curiosity is leading me to both for different reasons, and in the case of The Kingsman it’s mostly because I’ve been inundated with trailers since early October.  My attitude has waned from peaked interest, to mild interest, to relative indifference to half-hearted curiosity.  Last week I criticized it for focusing on Samuel L. Jackson’s lisp, but this time it’s Colin Firth’s charm that I noticed front and center.  He’s always occupied the role of the stuffy Englishman – sort of a less frumpy Hugh Grant, but it is nice to see him play a James Bond-type.  With that, I’m back to peaked interest.
Will I see it?: Yes
Excitement Level: Fairly High.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.