Taken 3

 Taken_3_33464

 

DIR: Olivier Megaton  WRI: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen  PRO: Luc Besson  DOP: Eric Kress  Ed: Audrey Simonaud, Nicolas Trembasiewicz  Cast: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Leland Orser

 

The third and allegedly final instalment of the Luc Besson-masterminded Taken series eschews the European settings of its predecessors for Californian locations, but in all other respects feels painfully rote. Sharing with prior instalments an inexplicable fascination for the family dynamics of rugged hero Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his kin, Taken 3 tarries with sub-TV soap opera for close to half an hour before finally wheezing into action.

 

In narrative terms, the film replaces the straightforward seek-and-destroy storylines of its predecessors with a convoluted “wrong man” plot lifted straight from The Fugitive (1993). On this occasion, the Tommy Lee Jones part is taken by Forest Whitaker, turning in another dreadful performance that must surely put him neck-and-neck with Renée Zellwegger for the bleakest post-Oscar career. Meanwhile, the “surprise” villain will surprise nobody, although his identity will not be revealed here.

 

It’s not a spoiler, however, to confirm that this mystery villain is a man, because as per usual, the only women on screen are Neeson’s daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). Janssen, typecast as a frosty shrew in the first Taken film, seems ill-at-ease with her now-mellowed character, and one can’t help but search her frozen features for a flicker of relief when she exits the action feet-first early on. The Taken films have always had an Oedipal streak a mile wide, and in that respect the latest instalment does not disappoint – giving Neeson and Grace a handful of excruciating father-daughter scenes, including one in a toilet cubicle that concludes with Kim creating a diversion for her escaping father by pretending to urinate. Grace is a likable genre performer, but at 31 she seems uncomfortable playing a college student who uses her mother’s garments as security blankets.

 

Age, of course, is but a number in a Taken film, and those wondering how Neeson’s action hero is holding up at 62 will be pleased to know that he still does youthful things like jumping over police cars and listening to The XX. Neeson has always walked a fine line between the stoic and the stolid, and part of the limited appeal of the Taken series has been the oddness of seeing him in the kind of role Arnold Schwarzenegger might have passed on in 1988. Alas, oddness – as well as action – is in short supply here. A fight scene in which an antagonist brandishes a machine gun while wearing only a bathrobe and his underpants calls to mind the lunatic quality of Besson’s own films, but it’s an all-too-brief flash of conscious absurdity. Elsewhere, the film feels perilously low on ideas – climaxing with an airport set-piece that seems laughably puny compared to a similar scene in Casino Royale (2006). Neeson, and most of the rest of the cast, look like they’d rather be punching the clock.

David Turpin

12A (See IFCO for details)
108 minutes.
Taken 3
is released 9th January 2015.

Taken 3   – Official Website

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Cinema Review:Taken 2

DIR: Olivier Megaton • WRI: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen PRO: Luc Besson • DOP: Romain Lacourbas • ED: Camille Delamarre, Vincent Tabaillon • DES: Sébastien Inizan • Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace

Did anyone really want Taken 2?!

Back in 2008, when Liam Neeson loomed, intimidated and murder-killed his way through the heart of Paris to find his daughter, I left the theatre oddly impressed, assuredly thrilled and ultimately satisfied.

Daughter Kidnapped. Dad gets on the case. Albanian jerks soil themselves, die. Daughter rescued.

That’s Taken; a divisive if simple, singular tale.

So I’m lost as to why Team Besson deemed it prudent to grant the world further insight into the homicidal exploits of John Taken!* Regardless, affairs are in a sad state when 60 year old Liam Neeson, big though he is, gets lumped with this needless sequel, helmed by the man responsible for Transporter 3!

* This should have been his name from the start, folks!

Giving the performance of his life, Neeson/WolfPuncher enjoyed a legitimate career highlight with January’s The Grey. So we all know the man can act. Unfortunately he’s saddled with 90 straight minutes of buffoonish dialogue and a ridiculous American twang.  Yes, he’s been naturalised as a US Citizen, but that Northern accent isn’t going anywhere in a hurry.

While Taken just about straddled the fine line between the plausible and the openly ridiculous, its sequel never quite knows which route to take, hedging every bet. For every instance of Neeson using his brain, doing something crafty, like estimating his location while blindfolded, listening for environmental markers, stuffing a miniature phone in his sock, we get Maggie Grace (who I have yet to be impressed with, in any role) detonating grenades in the streets of Budapest!

Themes of responsibility, consequence and justice are similarly muddied. The chief villain, an Albanian crime boss wronged by John Taken four years previously, decides to teach him a lesson about restraint by butchering him, his family and anyone else unfortunate enough to be in the camera’s frame.

There is no moralising here. There is no poignant lesson to be learned. Poorly choreographed, choppily edited violence begets poorly choreographed, choppily edited violence. And is resolved by same.

Whenever the cast aren’t spewing forth tired clichés and undercooked dialogue, Taken 2 slaps its audience in the face with some of the most poorly presented action this side of The Expendables 2. There is a (as in one!) car chase, a baton fight and a shoot-out. All of which should make you yearn for more talking.

And as for the practical joke of a final showdown, in which 6’ 4” John Taken kung-fus a short, pudgy Albanian rather than just, I don’t know, stepping on him?! Yikes. Neeson may be getting on in years, and he’s not exactly Jackie Chan, but this mismatch of sizes felt openly insulting to the hard-working lead.

Mercifully, Taken 2 isn’t a terribly lengthy endeavour. It has the manners to let you run for the exits inside of 90 minutes. And I say it’s fair we let poor Liam Neeson do the same. It’s hard to shake the impression he’s been bullied into this position, the aging action star, the badass granddad.

He made Taken 2. It was a disaster. Now, can we please let him go back to making more projects like The Grey now?

Neeson even admits, in this very feature, how he is ‘so tired of it all!’

Well, you and me both, Mr Taken!

Jack McGlynn

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
9omins

Taken 2 is released on 5th October 2012

Taken 2 –  Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpaT8NzkLgE

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Cinema Review: Lockout

 

DIR: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger • WRI: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger, Luc Besson • PRO: Marc Libert, Leila Smith • DOP: James Mather • ED: Camille Delamarre, Eamonn Power • DES: Romek Delmata • Cast: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Vincent Regan

A film like Lockout is an unfortunate one. The audience that this film caters for is already familiar with the story – and have seen it done better. Lockout is an incredibly thinly-veiled rehash of Escape From New York and the lesser Escape From L.A. – indeed, there was supposed to be a third film called, funnily enough, Escape From Earth. The film begins with an amusing opening credits sequence, but one part of it sticks out and is impossible to ignore – ‘Based on an original idea by Luc Besson’. Considering how Harlan Ellison sued both James Cameron and Andrew Niccol for plagiarism, it’s surprising that John Carpenter hasn’t done the same for this film. The only thing different between Lockout and the Escape films is the fact that Guy Pearce isn’t wearing an eyepatch.

The film is set in 2079. Guy Pearce is an ex-government agent who’s been wrongfully accused of killing his friend and mentor. Concurrently, the president’s daughter, Maggie Grace, is headed to a maximum security prison that orbits the Earth in order to ascertain if the prisoners there are being treated humanely. Naturally enough, it goes pear-shaped and Maggie Grace, along with her entourage, are taken hostage. Guy Pearce is soon captured by Peter Stromare and Lennie James and offered a deal – enter the prison, get the President’s daughter out and the charges are dropped. The film’s plot doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny and it’s not really supposed to. ‘Lockout’ is very much B-movie / straight-to-DVD fare; there isn’t much to sing about in terms of both the script and the action scenes. The film features a completely daft motorcycle sequence at the beginning that is so cheap-looking as to be comical. Throughout, the dialogue seems to move out of sync with the actor’s mouth which makes for a jarring experience.
Guy Pearce turns in a decent performance, however this type of script and film is completely beneath him. His character’s dialogue is laced with one-liners and witty comebacks. Most of them are humorous enough, but it’s the sheer rate of their delivery – almost in every scene – that eventually makes it seem annoying. Maggie Grace’s character is something of a non-entity, simply filling up the screen time with the odd reaction shot. As well, Joseph Gilgun and Vincent Reagan, playing two inmates who become the leaders of the prison revolt, add nothing to the overall film. Gilgun’s performance starts off impressive, but it simply follows a single line and never deviates. Reagan is a decent actor and, as with Pearce, this material is clearly beneath his abilities. The direction of the film is riddled with cliches throughout, as is the script. It’s true, Lockout isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. However, the film’s glaring errors and missteps are far too numerous and plentiful to go unnoticed. Avoid.
Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Lockout is released on 20th April 2012

Lockout – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrd67mpE8O0

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