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Monday, January 12, 2015

Taken 3



In the formula-eschewing Taken 3, the glum latest entry from the annual, reliable Liam Neeson Action Thriller Factory and the inevitable finale of the Taken Trilogy, this time Liam Neeson finds himself framed for the murder of his beloved ex-wife Famke Janssen. Prior to this tragedy, Neeson had moved past his ruthless exploits slaughtering every sex-slaving gangster in Albania to be a doting father to Maggie Grace, now a college girl with a live-in boyfriend and a secret bun in the oven. (She never did become a pop star, even after Neeson introduced her to Holly Valance at the end of the original Taken.) Neeson also clearly pines to reunite with Janssen and rekindle their marriage, but he is too honorable to cuckold her slimy current husband Dougray Scott (recast as apparently the same character Xander Berkley played in the original.) This delicate, peaceful balance in his life Neeson has achieved is chucked out the window when Janssen is murdered, at which point Neeson chucks himself out of his own window and goes on the lam in LA, with the cops, lead by detective Forest Whitaker (who eats the warm bagels Neeson eats in the movie so as best to understand his prey), in hot pursuit.

Liam Neeson spends an inordinate amount of time hiding in uncomfortable places in Taken 3. Stalking around Los Angeles undetected, Neeson attempts to investigate who really murdered Janssen by squeezing his six-foot-four-inch frame into the trunks of cars and cramped sewers. To communicate with Grace and see his baby girl, he elaborately poisons her favorite yogurt drink knowing that she will leave class to tend to her diarrhea. At which point, Neeson, who has been hiding in the women's lavatory in her college for God knows how long, meets her in the stall and administers an antidote. (Grace is repeatedly mentioned to be "predictable," but how does Neeson know Grace always goes to the biggest and last stall in the girls lav?) Grace doesn't find any of this weird, but after being Taken and sold into sex slavery, her definition of normal isn't like yours or mine. Neeson also knows the secret underground entry into the city morgue, because why wouldn't the Los Angeles city morgue have a secret underground entry? Neeson's old gang of ex-CIA misfits and golf buddies also get involved in the action this time. It's nice that Neeson has his own set of Expendables. Neeson himself moves a lot slower in Taken 3. You might say he's Taken his time. You might also say he's getting too old for this shit.

What does all of this have to do with a slew of Russian gangsters and Dougray Scott, who's obviously sending signals he's really the villain? Well, Dougray Scott is obviously the villain, having Janssen murdered for her $12-million life insurance to pay back the Russian gangsters he owes money to. And he framed Neeson, knowing Neeson would go on a bloody rampage to kill those responsible. It's actually a pretty decent plan and shows Scott paid attention to the prior Taken movies. (Aside: Dougray Scott was once going to play Wolverine before Hugh Jackman got the role. Can you imagine a world where that happened?) Neeson figures it all out a little too late, only after killing all of the Russian gangsters, including their leader Oleg Malankov, who decided to battle Neeson wearing nothing but a robe and a speedo while sporting a giant erection. Those who attended Taken 3 hoping for the abject thrills of Neeson wontonly engaging in entertaining wholesale slaughter stumble from the theater a bit disappointed; Neeson only massacres a handful of Russians and is careful not to murder any of the LAPD on his tail. Repeated counts of assault on the cops, sure. But no killing. This restraint is noted by Whitaker, who amusingly threatens to arrest Neeson for wire tapping. "That's illegal." So's everything else Neeson does, but hey.

Taken 3 is a rote, mechanical slog, short on giddy thrills and heavy on sorrowful beats of Maggie Grace mourning her mother in their million-dollar mansion. There is nothing as absurdly memorable in Taken 3 as the sight of Grace exploding grenades across the rooftops of Istanbul as a means to give Neeson a GPS fix on her position in Taken 2. The most batshit crazy thing Neeson does in Taken 3 is race a Porsche at 150 MPH and slamming it into the landing gear of Dougray Scott's airplane to prevent him from escaping with Grace as his hostage. What Taken 3 sorely needed was a good laugh. Like, say, when Grace is Taken hostage by Scott, she should have asked where he's taking her. And he could have replied, "I'm selling you to sex slavery in Albania -- like you should have been all along!" It's a pity the screenplay for Taken 3 was Taken 4 granted.