Taken 3 (France, 2015)

taken-3_poster_257DBB0E7B34498080200227B41451F2Directed by: Olivier Megaton. As much as I’ve enjoyed this little Liam Neeson trip over the years (as if it’s over—there’s that new Jaume Collet-Serra jam that pairs Neeson with Ed Harris and some other bros, as if I’m not gonna check that out—not to mention a ton of off-type, non action films that I might look at for academic curiosity), I have to admit that I wasn’t super looking forward to another Taken movie. Not that I didn’t find the first really satisfying, and the second one, even though not as good, still really hit the spot (thanks to my man Rade), but other than the law of market forces dictating that more sequels are better than less, and our Judaeo-Christian/Star Wars reverence for the symmetry of the trinity, did we really need another Taken? The second one seemed to fit narratively much better—they kidnap him and his wife and it’s up to the daughter to help save them—it has a nice poetic ring to it, keeping with the other stuff. This plot, I’m not sure. It’s not the same bad guys out for revenge from the beginning—too samey—so they bring in a new foreign master criminal (a Russian? I don’t remember), but the actual bad guy is the pathetic, stupid, jealous, inadequate second husband, the greasy lawyer, the unworthy stepfather, who played a very secondary but structurally and ideologically important role in the franchise. Perhaps the worst thing about this is the decision to replace Xander Berkeley, who played the stepfather in the first film (and whose great acting goes underused most of the time) with someone else (Dougray Scott), who did a good job and everything, but the discontinuity of the two actors in the same role disrupted the emotional impact of the whole plot of which he’s now a central part. And adding Forest Whitaker in the role of the wily, seasoned cop who’s smarter than all the other cops and sympathetic on a hunch to the innocence of the apparently guilty good guy is too familiar and well-used a trope to be anything but distracting. Not only is that whole dynamic a verbatim borrowing from The Fugitive (one of my favourite movies and I think one of the best action movies of all time), but it’s also pretty damn similar to his role in the Schwarzenegger movie The Last Stand—it’s an external element introduced to the Taken universe, which in the first two films was so satisfying because it was simple to the point of stupidity, but which I found admirable because of its mythological economy. The first two movies were almost acting on pure archetype. As soon as you introduce a second leading male protagonist in the form of the sympathetic seasoned cop Forest Whitaker, and as soon as you get a jealous second husband framing the heroic father for murder (or actually the wife’s death was an accident, the crazy Russian assassin going too far and the jealous husband actually just wanting Neeson dead, and he’s actually really pathetic and sad because he actually loved Lenore quite a bit, etc), it’s just too complicated, and frankly, if I wanted something complicated, I probably wouldn’t be watching a fucking Liam Neeson movie, you know what I mean? I hope Neeson refrains from engaging in these kinds of extended franchises from now on, because his one-off movies, especially with Jaume Collet-Serra, have a pretty great batting average, and are just overall a lot more bizarre and interesting vehicles for his talents, such as they are.

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One response to “Taken 3 (France, 2015)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2015 | Offhand Reviews·

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