Del and Mladen review ‘Taken 3’

Image courtesyof 20th Century Studios.

“Taken 3” Starring Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, and Maggie Grace. Directed by Olivier Megaton. 109 minutes. Rated PG-13

Del’s take

There were three of us and we wanted to see three different movies. The candidates were “Blackhat,” “The Imitation Game” and “Taken 3.” Guess which “mindless entertainment” prevailed?

Watching 63-year-old Liam Neeson beat up half of Albania isn’t mindless entertainment for this geezer, who remembers playing tennis from dawn to dusk, and could no sooner do that now than pass a high school algebra test. It’s validation that if I really, really wanted to do it, I could lose the gut, get back into shape, and menace the bad guys in ways that don’t involve flashing my AARP card in their faces.

That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

In “Taken 3” we return to the world of Bryan Mills, an ex-covert ops specialist who’s family has been favored by kidnappers. This time the action takes place in a version of Los Angeles that does not feature traffic-choked freeways and cynical journalists – clearly we’re talking science fiction. Mills is framed for a murder he didn’t commit and after beating up a sizeable contingent of cops he escapes to a bolthole where he’s able to refresh, replenish, and re-apply the Grecian Formula. Cars crash, fists fly and guns blaze. Somehow Neeson comes out of it with nary an adult diaper mussed.

The first act is excruciatingly slow, prompting Mladen to ask if “Taken 3” was a documentary. No, Mladen. It’s a frightening representation of most people’s lives. But I agree to an extent – I’m tired of the soap opera theatrics between Mills, his ex-wife and her current husband. And I hope the daughter, now enrolled in college, is majoring in something other than Being a Victim because her sullen helplessness grates on my nerves.

Acts two and three are where “Taken” earns its stripes as “mindless entertainment.” The action is almost non-stop as Neeson gallomps (not “gallop” … he’s too old for that these days) from one cliffhanger to the next with Forest Whitaker in tepid pursuit. The Big Reveal is telegraphed fairly early in the story, and one plot element fails spectacularly – I won’t say what except it involves the functionality of a certain device.

Neeson still rocks as Bryan Mills but I’d say “Taken 3” is the weakest of the three. Everyone and everything is limned in a kind of drabness that suggests the vein has been mined, and it’s time to move on.

If the menu calls for mindless entertainment, “Taken 3” might by worth a taste. Be sure to ask for the senior citizen discount.

Mladen’s take

Del has done you a disservice. “Taken 3” isn’t mindless entertainment. For me it was very thought-provoking as I developed the list to mock the movie. 

“Taken 3” is partly a sensitive chick flick-like film. The director gives you lots of tight face shots that amply demonstrate it’s better to be young than old. Less wrinkles. Better teeth. Sparklier eyes. Megaton infects a large chunk of the film with ordinary life dialogue to try to force viewers into liking the characters. What? Was he thinking the Academy would give him the nod with a best director nomination for an Oscar? No. Megaton has created a megaflop.

The movie also goes to great lengths to explain itself. I counted at least three plot summaries or, maybe more accurately, plot-gap fillers. And, unfortunately, the ending suggests that “Taken 4” is on the way.

Other weaknesses:

“Taken 3” could have risen to semi-good, but no higher, with a simple touch.

The movie should’ve been made with an R rating in mind. There were plenty of opportunities for hard-core cussing and graphic violence. Instead, the viewer gets a slit throat that leaves a couple of drops on the floor and a blouse its original color. When a hit man blows out his brains through the mouth rather than fess up about his boss, there’s no gray and white matter splatter or remains on the glass of the convenience store refrigerator behind him.

The line at the theater box office was long. Kari, I saw “Taken 3” with her and Del, got to the theater first and bought our tickets. Because she, colluding with Del, forced me to strike 109 minutes from my life to watch this silly movie I have no intention of paying her back.  

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a journalist and author.