In a moment in Taken 3 Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills is berating another bad guy shmuck with his catch phrase, but this time there’s a nod to the audience; “I will find you…and then you know what happens.” We do in a way in the third entry to the old guy, “you f*cked with the wrong man” vengeance series from writers Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen and director Olivier Megaton. The Taken films are essentially vengeance porn; everything that isn’t the sadistic act of dealing out death, or at least severe maiming, is mind numbingly awful exposition, featuring characters with the depth of a shot glass.
Bryan Mills’ (Neeson) returns home to meet his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) for breakfast and finds her dead and the police busting down the door with him ensnared in a frame up. After incapacitating his captors and going off the grid, he must covertly protect his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), dodge the dogged pursuit of formidable Inspector Frank Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) and clear his name, with extreme prejudice.
The opening title sequence from Mr Megaton should have come with a photosensitive epilepsy warning. The jarring swirling in and out of the Los Angeles night to an electronic beat was so disorientating that it gave me a migraine. However, that was merely the beginning of frenetically cut together action to cheat their leading man’s lack of mobility and speed. Writers, Mr Besson and Mr Kamen, have a real aptitude for structure, and in a different film franchise we could have taken (no pun intended) a very different ride. However, there’s one thing we know. Bryan Mills is going to find the perpetrators and kill them, and no amount of old man running is going to trick the audience into thinking that there’s any potential conclusion. The dialogue in every single interaction is as stilted as it gets. It’s as if in the first Taken they had just the right amount of bad ‘porn level’ characterisation before we got to the violent ‘good-stuff.’ Taken 3 is about an hour and half of that porn level exposition.
Fiddling with a knight chess piece, flicking and strumming an elastic band on his hand, a slight obsession was sampling food from crime scenes; Mr Whitaker’s Inspector Dotzler has enough affectations for twelve cartoonish detectives. To be fair; the character of Dotzler would have been nothing on the page; it’s made vastly more engaging by the quirks Mr Whitaker assigned to the character. Ms. Grace, now a playing a college aged Kim, is enslaved by a character written for both maximum helplessness and a molly coddled arrested development.
Mr Neeson is fun to watch getting into the fray and this time around he looks in better shape than the last Taken picture. He delivers Bryan Mills’ lines with a fierce sincerity that I found myself distracted, imagining a director’s commentary that revealed that the entire film is actually a farce. None else deserves a mention.
For Taken the entire audience was intoxicated with the media fear mongering of western female tourists being preyed upon by eastern European modern sex ‘slavers.’ In our goofy state the filmmakers created the ‘angel of death’ in disguise to exact the fictional vengeance for the real losses to date. In the wake of Taken 2 and 3 we’re completely sober to the fact that this veteran vengeance porn has become its own parody.
[rating=1] and a half
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Written by: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Jansen, Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott,