Better than the second, especially with this Extended Harder Cut
Taken 3 Extended Harder Cut Film Review
After the back-to-basics, efficiently streamlined and refreshingly brutal Taken, and the disappointing pre-teen-panderingly censored, muted, frenetically-edited sequel, third time is surprisingly... not awful.Yes, we’re still living in a world where bullets – and sometimes even cars – are launched across the screen with fury and frivolity, and where blood spatter seems slightly less forthcoming than the scenario might, in reality, dictate, but, this time round, it actually feels a little more forgivable. A little. The story is more The Fugitive, or The Bourne Supremacy, both of which did not require graphic violence to make them enjoyable adult affairs, and, certainly in the latter case, one of the best action thrillers ever made. Taken 3 can’t come close to fulfilling those kinds of aspirations, but it appears to more easily justify its existence than the last outing. And, perhaps, after the diabolic story and terrible action of Taken 2, this was just a nice step up. If only Megaton hadn’t returned for frenetic directorial duty, it could have been even better, but at least he appears to have popped one less pill this time around.Eschewing the kidnapped formula of the first two outings, Taken 3 finds Neeson’s beleaguered Bryan Mills on the run for murder, with the police, headed up by Forrest Whittaker, hot in pursuit. And whilst the bodies pile up along the way, since the majority of them are law enforcement it’s almost excusable that the film doesn’t even try to meet the standards of no-nonsense brutality established by the first outing, instead seeing Mills trying his best not to kill everybody in sight. And with this extended cut, the fight sequences are given a slightly grittier edge, the blood spatter is reinstated for the headshots and body wounds, the swear words make it feel more adult, and even the spontaneously combusting car is given better justification for blowing up. It doesn’t suddenly raise it to the heights of the first film, but unlike the first sequel - which couldn’t be saved - it makes a halfway decent sequel that little bit more brutal.
Picture QualityTaken 3 hits UK Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox, who provide what seems likely to be the exact same package that the US got a couple of months’ back, right down to the two cuts of the movie on offer. Thankfully it’s a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen; it couldn’t have been much better.
Whatever your reservations about the film, or the path that this franchise has taken, it still looks excellent in HD.
Detail is impressive throughout, with skin texture that shows up every wrinkle and crag, and background layering that brings depth to the piece. There’s a warm filmic feel to the piece, which survives the myriad directorial flourishes that the shooting style offers, providing a largely consistent presentation which barely falters across its runtime. The colour scheme is rich and sun-drenched, with every available shade taking on a golden twinge, and black levels are strong and deep, with no diminishing shadow detail. Overall it’s an excellent video presentation that remains just shy of reference, and easily demo quality.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is suitably punchy, as you might have only expected, but allows a strong balance of atmospheric precision and bombastic presence. Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the fronts and centre channels, coming across clear and coherently throughout, whilst effects bring the settings and set-pieces to life, whether large or small, rendering bustling streets, chaotic skirmishes, an assault of police sirens, or an assortment of punishing weaponry, with power and precision.
Taken 3’s strong audio track provides an excellent accompaniment to the proceedings.
The score offers up more material to disseminate across the surrounds, and keeps the pacing going through what is a fairly energetic ride. Of course the action provides a highlight, with some LFE oomph to help things along, and overall it’s a strong demo effort.
ExtrasThe only thing that you could possibly argue is a worthwhile extra on this disc is the presence of the uncut version of the film. Other than that, this purportedly final Taken entry (we’ll see about that!) hasn’t got anything really substantial to offer, with a single hefty 7 minute Deleted flashback sequence (it's just the full version of the edited flashback snippets you see, complete with no dialogue), a trio of mini-Featurettes all just 3-4 minutes long – Sam’s Bunker, which looks at the weapons stored there; Taken to LA, which looks at the locations in the film; and A Taken Legacy rounding off the back-patting and delusional glorification of this ending to the trilogy. The disc is rounded off with a Gallery and Trailer.
Taken 3 Blu-ray VerdictTaken 3 doesn’t quite excuse the abomination that is Taken 2, nor does it accomplish the lean, mean, unfettered brutality of Taken, which is still a rare beast amongst modern pre-teen friendly action thrillers, but it does manage to do something different, and fairly effective, with what could have so easily been yet another dead-in-the-water franchise.
If this had been released as the second movie, people may not have so easily given up on the franchise.
This UK release boasts excellent video and audio and is only really a letdown on the extras front where's it's only the extended cut which really makes for a welcome addition. Fans of the franchise - those few who enjoyed the second one - should be right on-board for this; those who loved the first but were disappointed by the second might still want to give this a shot though. Even if you didn’t want to spend cinema bucks on it, it’s worth checking out on the home front, preferably, right after enduring the second one. You might be pleasantly surprised.
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