Movie review: ‘Taken 3’
Directed By Olivier Megaton
Starring Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott Fox
Rated PG-13, Action, 109 minutes
In this third installment of the popular series starring Liam Neeson as ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills (Neeson), the retired agent becomes a fugitive after being framed for the murder of someone close to him.
Written by Luc Besson, the original, 2008 film reinvented the then 56-year-old Neeson as an action star. Blending formidable physicality with debonair likability, Neeson’s Mills knows precisely when and how to take the law into his own hands. Baddies beware, Mills always gets his man.
The first two movies succeeded as wishful declarations of male-protector Mills, whose “particular set of skills,” coupled with gritty determination, ensured his family’s survival. Mills finds everyday interactions considerably more problematic. Writer-producer Besson drives home the operative’s social ineptitude during an opening sequence that shows him purchasing a giant stuffed panda bear as a birthday gift for 20-something daughter Kim (Maggie Grace).
Moments before dad’s knock on her door, Kim became an emotional wreck due to the positive reading shown on her home pregnancy test. She rejects the panda as both inappropriate for her age and too large for her small apartment, prompting Bryan to belt the sad-faced toy into his passenger seat as he reassures the inanimate object, “I know how you feel.”
Yep, that’s right. In number three, tender moments do battle with the rough parts for storytelling supremacy. Lacking the finesse to carry off the shifts in tone, we are subjected to a jarring bump each time Besson zigzags between a villain killing perfectly nice innocents and Mills’ efforts to either rekindle romance with ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) or to be a great dad.
Rounding out Bryan’s modern-day family is his ex-wife’s wealthy husband Stuart St. John (Dougray Scott). Perhaps demonstrating the nerve responsible for St. John’s business success, he appears on Bryan’s doorstep to request Bryan not see Lenore while he and her undergo marriage counseling.
Although Bryan readily agrees, he has previously given Lenore a key to his apartment and, within a matter of mere hours, is buying the bagels requested for their rendezvous at his place. Except in the service of justice, such moral lapses are uncharacteristic of our hero, so predictably things go wrong for him from here.
Following the murder that leaves Mills’s life in shambles and makes him appear guilty, it falls to LAPD detective Frank Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) to eat the bagels Mills has left behind and to ascertain that pitting Mills against any 10 LAPD cops will make the cops feel even dumber than they look. While some of the action is enjoyable, and Mills goes out of his way not to kill good guys, Besson attempts to cover the holes in his story with heinous killings or by entertaining us with depictions of Mills escaping any number of death traps. The latter are generally fun except on the occasions when we aren’t shown how Mill’s did it.
This time Bryan’s team of operatives, also retired, step in to help him out. It’s no surprise to learn the paranoid group maintains a safe house stocked with money and weapons, but it’s fun to observe their foresight in providing top-notch security to this unassuming location. Fun however, is in all-too-short supply as the frequent use of action movie tropes interfere with letting it all go so we can go with it.
Neeson was reportedly paid $20 million to make this film. I ought to be angry with him for simply cashing in, but then again, at 62, he’s got to gather his action bananas before they spoil.
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.