Taken 3 Review
Taken becomes The Fugitive
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 fired at people with fury and frivolity, while blood 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 adult violence to make them enjoyable 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.Eschewing the kidnapped formula of the first two outings, as you might have guessed from the films that I’ve compared it to, Taken 3 (aka Tak3n) sees the beleaguered Bryan Mills given the briefest of reprieves before finding himself on the run for murder, with the police hot in pursuit, shooting first and asking questions never. Mills enlists the help of his old ex-military compadres from the first two movies, as well as his not-so-feeble-as-she-normally-is daughter, to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. 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 – understandably – trying his best not to kill everybody in sight.
The US setting isn’t such a bad choice either – Europe-drifting-to-East-Europe was the wrong direction for the franchise to be heading in – and Megaton spends less time trawling the unfamiliar streets and more time dishing out scenes of both sneaky espionage and solid action in equal measure. Yes, Megaton is back on board, which will put off many who were hoping they brought back Taken’s Pierre Morel instead, rather than bringing back the guy who nearly killed the franchise, but he appears to have a better handle on PG-13/12A violence this time around.
As we've already stated, it actually kind-of suits the change-in-style narrative. Sure, there is a general vibe that the whole feature is more neutered than it should be – like the latter Die Hard instalments or Expendables sequels – and certainly the finale could have used much more outright brutality, but at least the film doesn’t always feel like it’s missing something when Mills dispatches his opponents – previously you wondered why you weren’t hearing their necks break, now there’s at least some semblance of a good excuse.
Megaton also uses his cast more efficiently this time around, not only pulling in all of the old familiar faces, each for some decent input, but also drafting in a few solid newcomers, with Forrest Whittaker playing his more eccentric variation of Tommy Lee Jones’ dogged Fugitive-hunter as he tracks down Mills, all the while a growing sense that his quarry may actually have been set up. There’s also Dougray Scott, who replaces Xander Berkeley (not that anybody would remember) as his ex-wife’s new husband, and takes him for a slightly more interesting character arc than you might expect.
If this had been released as the second movie, people may not have so easily given up on the franchise.
Taken 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. Fans may have given up on the series but, even if you don’t want to spend cinema bucks on it, it’s worth visiting it some point, preferably, right after enduring the second one. You might be pleasantly surprised.
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