TAKEN 3, starring Liam Neeson


I have not seen Taken and Taken 2, so perhaps there is an inside joke or some plot details that make Taken 3 more interesting than I found it to be in my pathetic ignorance of the other two films.

It’s like a TV crime show, just longer to fill up the two hours. Ridiculous car chases on Los Angeles freeways that have way fewer cars on them than I have ever experienced when driving in LA. This ridiculous: cars driving down the wrong way on the freeway, flipping up into the air, riding along the concrete barriers, and then driving off with nothing more than a dent in the fender; people enduring this vehicular mayhem sans-a-scratch; cars exploding with incredible amounts of fire–I mean, really, my van holds 16 gallons of gas. Is that enough, even without the preceding giant car chase, to make a fireball a hundred feet high with several separate explosions? Of course, I bow to the explosion gods who know these things.

Add to this nonsense, the folly of old guys playing roles in which they single-handedly kill Evil Russian mobsters, and note that the ERMs all have machine guns which destroy everything but Our Hero, but never even graze him. He, of course, kicks away weapons that might help him, trusting in his handgun that conveniently runs out of ammo only when there is another pistol on the ground handy enough for him to pick up. The evilest of the ERMs, gives us more of himself than we want to see in his defining scene. And if they were going to be all bodily like that, could they not have chosen an actor with some discernible abs? Tighty-whiteys have their place, and I’m not saying they don’t, but c’mon, man.

There’s also that tired old saw of the lone guy who can stop an airplane by chasing it with a car. See Argo if you want to see this sort of thing done in a much more highly-charged, yea, even terrifying manner. (See Argo immediately if you haven’t. Obviously.) In defense of the car-airplane scene in Taken 3, at least it’s not as completely inane as the idiotic plane-landing scene in the recent cinematic catastrophe Left Behind.

Movies that I didn’t like that were better than this one: The Equalizer with Denzel Washington, another movie in which an old guy single-handedly kills roomsful of Russian mobsters without getting a scratch . . . oh wait, I’m not sure that one was any better than this one, never mind; Gone Girl starring Ben Affleck, another movie in which a man is accused of murdering his wife, because in GG, there is a lot of tension–we don’t know whether Amazing Amy’s husband is going to go down for the crime. Here, we know from the get-go who is and is not guilty, and that’s a plot fail. Granted, there is a little bit of an “aha” moment, but it isn’t surprising, nor is the motive very complex.

Forest Whitaker, as the lead LAPD officer, adds some star power to the film, not that Neeson doesn’t have that, just that Whitaker’s role is not ridiculous. He isn’t given the world’s greatest script; for example, I’m guessing that LAPD officers don’t typically eat the evidence, nor was it necessary here, but I won’t say more, in case you’re going to see this mildly interesting crime drama.

The biggest problem with Bryan Mills’s (Neeson) behavior is that none of it is necessary. The evidence is so clear and so easily obtainable–indeed, the police do have the relevant evidence to find the killers of Mills’s ex-wife within 24 hours of her murder–that none of his “bustin’ in the doors to wreak justice” behaviors are necessary. Had he allowed himself (as a normal person would do) to be arrested, then talked his head off to the interrogating officers, cooperated, encouraged his daughter to cooperate, he would have been released with apologies within a few days, avoiding all the nonsensical car chases, foot chases in which an old dude outruns young police officers in cars, and so forth.

It’s the script, of course. Everyone does what he can, but you can’t overcome a script that relies on clues from a bagel, and the premise that the LAPD isn’t smart enough to check security cameras. The worst part of the script, possibly, is that this movie ends as The Equalizer ended, with the “good guy” who has done nothing but kill, maim, and disable people throughout the entire event walk away free and clear. I wonder if this happens: if you can escape from police custody by tossing officers out of their cars onto the freeway, terrorize the public by driving like a madman, obstruct justice, avoid arrest, assault multiple officers of the law, beat up scores of people–leaving some with broken bones, some with massive internal injuries, and some dead–all of this to find the real killer, who would have been found anyway in about two days, and then you walk away without any charges against you because, after all, you meant well, and you had your family’s best interest at heart. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen.

All that said, I didn’t hate the movie. It was sort of okay, but if you want to see a movie where Mr. Neeson is escaping through the sewers (as he does here), may I recommend the classic 1998 Les Miserables?