Thursday, 15 January 2015

Taken 3; Los Angeles is safe

Famously, the first two Taken movies supposedly put an entire generation of Americans off the whole idea of leaving the USA for fear of what crazed near Europeans might do to them if they went to Yerp, or worse, Turkey. So Taken 3 was supposed to be all about the payback, making it clear LA is every bit as dangerous to harmless American with very particular sets of skills. 

Yeah, about that. All the interiors were done in a studio in France, the car chases were done in Spain, including the trash-a-jet-with-a-Porsche scene that probably used up all the money they could have spent on proper stunts, and a lot of the exteriors were done in Atlanta. Only a few establishing shots and the self indulgent opening credits sequence seem to have been shot in LA, and if you’re keeping a sharp eye on what’s happening, you’ll notice that the LA shots are all scenery, no action, as to keep the LA crew as small and cheap as possible. This is Europa Corp, after all, whose core production value is “Yes, but do they have tax breaks there?”.

Their other core value is that Russians and other migrants are the worst, so there’s a comforting familiarity to the villainscape as once again Bryan Mills has to butcher his way through hordes of eastern European mooks. Luc Besson takes a writing credit as usual, though this time the bar mat he scribbled the idea on seems to have been pre-used, as though the last guy at the table had been trying to explain the plot of The Fugitive to a friend and Luc had to squeeze his plot ideas in around the first set of scribbles.

In the role of Tommy Lee Jones. Forrest Whitaker spends the whole movie practising his nervous tics, telling everyone that Mills has out-thought them once again, and standing around having phone conversations. Even if you include the time he spends getting out of helicopters I don’t know that he moves more than 200 metres in the whole movie. Meanwhile Olivier Megaton directs so choppily that after a while I decided that Liam Neeson wasn’t so much doing his own stunts as standing still in a series of dynamic poses which Megaton then edited into a live action cartoon to make each freeze frame look like continuous movement. 

It’s always fun to watch Liam Neeson, but Taken 3 gives him no good lines, lacks the gritty meanness of the first movie or the exuberant stupidity of the second one, and spends more time on soap opera angst than it does on Liam Neeson beating things up, which is kind of missing the point of making another Taken movie. It’s the longest one to date, and all the extra time is spent staring soulfully at things or fretting about imploding marriages and failed pregnancy tests. The poster threatens “It ends here”. Not a minute too soon.

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