Friday, January 9, 2015

Taken 3 [2014]

MPAA (PG-13)  ChiTribune/Variety (1 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune/Variety (M. Lee) review

Taken 3 [2014] (directed by Olivier Megaton, screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen) continues, IMHO quite unsatisfactorily, the Taken franchise through its third installment: 

Perhaps it was just that everyone involved in the story, especially lead actor Liam Neeson coming back, _again_ as _retired_, (presumed) _former_ CIA assassin Bryan Mills, seemed tired. (Hey, generally people don't "retire" for nothing ... they retire because they're "gettin' old for this sort of stuff ...");

Perhaps the story was beginning to "run out of places to go." (In the first installment, the story "shot itself out" in Paris, in the second in Istanbul, this time simply "just a few blocks down-the-street from the studio" in (presumably) the "Mills' Southern California");

Or perhaps simply this installment finally "just got sloppy" revealing just how improbable the whole franchise story always was ...

In any case, the story just felt flat, with key characters like Mills' ex-wife Lenore (played by Famke Jansson) being killed off (_she_ won't be coming back again) and the rest of the cast largely going through the motions.

The installment begins, quite endearingly, as the previous ones did (that's part of the franchise's schtick), with the Mills' each trying focus on their "regular lives."  Mills is shown busily trying to buy something for daughter Kim's (played by Maggie Grace) birthday.  She's in college now, apparently living with her boyfriend (worried actually that she may be pregnant), but she's still "his little girl."  So he settles on buying her a big stuffed panda and a bottle of champagne.   Mills' ex (and Kim's mother) is apparently having trouble with her second husband, but is trying "really hard" to make at least that second marriage work, and Mills is as "supportive" as a first (former) husband could be in a situation like that.  He DOESN'T try to "take advantage" but almost certainly he's smiling inside (thinking no doubt "I always knew it wasn't _simply_ me" ;-).  The second husband (played by Dugray Scott) even comes over, early on in the story to ask Mills to "keep out of the(ir) mess."  And Mills, gently, nonthreateningly (in as much as a _former CIA assassin_ could be "nonthreatening") assures him that he _doesn't_ want to get involved.

But becoming involved he must ... as a few days later Mills gets a text from Lenore asking him to stop at some neighborhood coffee shop "get some bagels" and come home to his apartment because, presumably, "she wants to talk."  Well, he gets the bagels, comes home and ... finds Lenore dead, in his bed.

What the heck happened?  He doesn't have a whole lot of time to ponder this because a few seconds later the LAPD is there (called apparently by SOMEBODY ...) yelling at him to "put his hands up."  Still not understanding what had just happened, but expecting that he wasn't gonna be able to figure things out as easily in a police lockup, he (former special forces, a former CIA assassin) decides "to make a run of it" ... does ... and the rest of the installment follows...

Of course, in the course of his running away from the cops (led by a LAPD inspector played by Forrest Whitaker) and later by his slinking / running around Los Angeles, there's _a lot_ of shooting, "glass breaking," and a fair number of "high speed chases."  And of course, (not much of a SPOILER here) ... EVENTUALLY he has to clear his name.

BUT ... while SOMEHOW (and in retrospect, with some embarrassment) these "shoot 'em up / chase scenes" seemed to "work for me" when the story was set in Paris or Istanbul, I FOUND THEM UTTERLY BELIEVABLE NOW THAT THEY WERE SET IN L.A.

Say what?  Don't these kind of scenes play-out in all kinds of Hollywood crime dramas set in Los Angeles?  Yes, but USUALLY these scenes involve chasing a "bad guy," not a "good guy trying to clear his name."

There's a scene in this film with the Police still chasing Mills as their prime suspect in which all kinds of "civilian cars" and even a huge semi-truck are wrecked on a freeway.  I simply can't imagine Mills, EVEN IF INNOCENT OF THE ORIGINAL CRIME (the death of his ex-wife) "WALKING AWAY" INNOCENT after CAUSING SO MUCH CARNAGE _RESISTING / FLEEING ARREST_.  At least SOME of those innocents crushed in some of those cars would have relatives WITH LAWYERS who would sue the LAPD (at minimum) "for compensation" and ASK QUESTIONS about "what the heck was that chase about?"  

Just IMAGINE even one of presumably MANY court cases that would follow that high speed chase:

My client's wife Molly was driving their 18-month year old toddler Jenny (look at my Molly's and my client's wedding pictures ... they got married in Santa Barbara, went to Oahu for their honeymoon ... ) to her mother's before heading off to work (Molly worked second shift at a Bob's Big Boy off of the 210 in Glendale, and look at all the pictures of their little Jenny playing with her little ducky in the bathtub at grandma's ...) when OUT OF NOWHERE THEIR CAR WAS CRUSHED BY A SEMI THAT SPUN OUT OF CONTROL AS A RESULT OF A HIGH SPEED POLICE ACTION with LAPD chasing some "shadowy figure" named Bryan Mills (it's all on the transcripts of the Police Radio of the time) who LAPD now maintains "committed NO CRIME."   My client's beautiful wife and 18-month-old toddler -- again look at all the lovely family pictures  -- ARE DEAD and LAPD and the District Attorney are NOW SAYING that Mills is "innocent."  HUH????   If he didn't resist arrest, my client's wife and kid would be alive today...

So at least this installment in the story seemed to me completely ridiculous (and with some embarrassment, I have to admit now that the two other installments set in Paris and Istanbul pretty much _had to be ridiculous_ as well).

Sigh ... it was a good run ... for a while ...

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