Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: Tak3n (Taken 3)

"It Ends Here?" If only...
Tak3n (or Takthreen, as I like to call it) was written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. It was directed by Olivier Megaton.

Besson and Kamen also wrote the first two films, and Megaton directed the previous outing, Taken 2. You're probably squinting while stroking your beard and thinking, "I bet Megaton's not his real name." If so, you're correct. He was born Olivier Fontana.

I enjoyed the original Taken quite a bit— it took the box office by surprise back in 2008, and gave Liam Neeson a new career as an action hero. His Bryan Mills character was an uncompromising badass who shot first and didn't even bother with the questions later as he searched the globe for his kidnapped daughter.

Unfortunately the second film was a pale imitation of the original. Everything that made the first one good was sorely lacking in the second. Sadly, the same thing is true in this third outing. 

They do try to change things up a bit this time by skipping the kidnapping angle and making Neeson the one who's hunted, in what amounts to a weak remake of The Fugitive. Ultimately it's just more of the same. A copy of a copy, that gets worse with every succeeding generation. It's high time this franchise was put out of its misery.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
As we all know by now, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), is an ex-CIA agent and all around badass. He's visited by his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), who says her marriage to shady businessman Stuart St. John is on the rocks and confesses she still has feelings for Bryan. Stuart warns Bryan to stay away from Lenore. 

The next day Lenore texts Bryan and asks to meet him. He agrees and goes out to get a bag of her favorite bagels. When he returns to his apartment, he finds Lenore's lifeless body in his bedroom. Right on cue the police enter, accusing him of her murder. He escapes and sets out to prove his innocence and find out who murdered Lenore.

LAPD Inspector Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) is assigned to the case. There's lots of running around, car crashes and explosions as Bryan manages to stay one step ahead of Dotzler.

Bryan eventually discovers that Stuart owed a huge debt to an ex-KGB operative (there's a lot of exes in this movie) named Oleg Malankov. Stuart says Malankov was the one who murdered Lenore.

Bryan infiltrates Malankov's heavily guarded penthouse and after much shooting and blowing up of things, mortally wounds him. Malankov tells Bryan that they're both patsies— Stuart played them against one another. Stuart took out a twelve million dollar life insurance policy on Lenore, knowing that Malankov would kill her when he didn't pay his debt, and that Bryan would kill Malankov in revenge, conveniently disposing of that loose end.

Stuart kidnaps Bryan's daughter Kim and attempts to flee the country. Bryan manages to disable the plane in the knick of time (with a car, yet!) and beats Stuart into submission, telling him he'll be waiting for him when he gets out of prison.

In the requisite happy denouement, Kim and her boyfriend Jimmy tell Bryan he's going to be a grandpaw. Bryan somehow restrains himself and doesn't snap Jimmy's neck.

Thoughts:
• I am not a fan of the cutesy "Tak3n" version of the title. I blame the Jackson 5ive for starting the whole "numbers as letters" trend way back in the 1970s.

• The first two Taken films had an expansive worldwide scope, as Bryan Mills scoured the globe searching for his family members.

All that goes right out the window in this installment. The entire film seems to take place within several square miles of Bryan's apartment. We even get to visit exotic locations such as Kim's community college! Breathtaking!

• Stuart St. John is played by actor Dougray Scott. I kind of feel sorry for Scott, as he's lost out on some really choice roles over the years. In 2000 he was all set to play Wolverine in the first X-Men film, but had to drop out when Mission: Impossible, which he was starring in, went over schedule. 

He was then on the short list to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond before the role ultimately went to Daniel Craig. There were even rumors he was being considered to play the Joker in The Dark Knight

Poor Dougray Scott. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride.

• Liam Neeson is sixty three years old. A very fit sixty three, but sixty three nonetheless. 

When Bryan is first cornered by a couple of policemen, he escapes and leads them on a merry chase through his neighborhood, effortlessly outrunning a cop at least half his age. A cop who looks not unlike Oscar de la Hoya in build and fitness level. 

Bryan dashes down alleys, scales fences and even leaps from rooftop to rooftop as he evades the police. I'm honestly surprised he didn't parkour up the side of a building or stop for an impromptu breakdance.

Yes, earlier in the film they show Bryan jogging in a weak attempt to show us he stays fit, but I still ain't buying it.

• In addition to Bryan's amazing fitness level and his tactical and spy knowledge, he's also equipped with a wide array of magic, er, I mean hi-tech gizmos that let him download GPS info from cars and data from cell phones. He even has a tiny computer that copies the entire LA Police Department database in a few seconds (!). He might as well have had a sonic screwdriver— it wouldn't have seemed out of place.


Spy gadgets are nothing new; James Bond films have used them for decades. Those movies are spy fantasies though— the Taken movies are supposedly a bit more grounded. It's a bit jarring when Bryan has what is essentially a magic wand.

It's hard to build up any tension in a film when the main character can literally do anything he needs to, whenever he needs to do it. 

• Agent Dotzler is a quirky cop, who carries around a chess piece and wears a rubber band around his hand, that he snaps himself with when he makes a mistake. I'm sure that was supposed to be some kind of unspoken look into his psyche, but it just comes off as odd.

• Bryan wants to speak to his daughter Kim, who's under heavy police surveillance. To that end, he poisons the yogurt drink that we're told she buys every day from a particular shop on campus. When she begins feeling nauseous, she dashes to a bathroom stall where Bryan just happens to be hiding.

How'd he know someone else wouldn't buy the yogurt drink before she did? Yes, we're told she always buys the fourth one back, but what if there was a run on that flavor that particular day? And how'd he know which stall she'd be in? What did he do if someone tried to use the stall he was hiding in before Kim got there? Did he say, "Sorry, occupied!" in a high-pitched voice?

Maybe he could have just, oh, I don't know, called her cell phone or sent her a text message, and used one of his magic doodads to block his location?

Oh, and don't worry— after he tells her he poisoned her he gives her an antidote that instantly neutralizes the substance. Ka-zam!

• Just like in Taken 2, this film makes extensive use of Shakey-Cam™ in all the fight and car chase scenes. Because why just use one cut to show Bryan punching a bad guy when you can use seventeen?

I couldn't tell what the hell was happening in any of the fight scenes, and had to wait until they were over to see who won. Surprise, it was Bryan every time.

• After Stuart is apprehended, we see Bryan in Dotzler's office, where he explains everything to the Detective's satisfaction. Dotzler says he could charge Bryan for resisting arrest, but that all is forgive and tells him he's free to go.

Um... what about Bryan's little jaunt along the busy LA freeway? His getaway stunt caused hundreds of collisions, injuries and probably even a few deaths. Shouldn't he be liable for all that?

And what about all of Malankov's men that he killed when he infiltrated his penthouse? Sure, they were all seedy underworld thugs, but killing them was still outright murder.

That's one of my biggest pet peeves about action movies like this— there are never any consequences for the hero's actions. Yes, Bryan proved his innocence and brought the real killer of his wife to justice, but he broke forty or fifty other laws to do so. 

• At the end of the movie Kim and her boyfriend "Jimmy" tell Bryan that they're having a baby, and will name it after Lenore if it's a girl.

Welp, there's your plot for Taken 4 (or most likely T4ken) right there— Bryan's granddaughter will be Taken, and he'll have to travel the globe to get her back.

Taken 3 tries to change the direction of the franchise, but can't capture the raw intensity of the first film. It's way past time for this series to end. I give it a C+.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails
 
Site Meter