Blu-ray Review: Taken 3

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One of the great things about the original Taken was that it carried a level of plausibility. The characters, even the unstoppable Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), were vulnerable. The storytelling was direct, visceral, and benefited from a sense of internal logic. There were no sequences that provoked outright groans or cries of “gimme a break!” Bryan’s daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) was taken by sex traffickers and he set out on a mission to rescue her. It was emotionally direct and viscerally satisfying. The same can’t be said for either of the sequels, but at least in Taken 2, someone was in fact taken: Bryan and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), to be specific. Kim had to step up her game to help save her parents. It was all a bit comically over the top, but entertaining enough.

taken3212 (380x252).jpgNow available on Blu-ray and DVD, Taken 3 misses the mark almost entirely. Several major plot points that might otherwise be considered spoilers were well known, thanks to an overly revealing trailer. This time out, no one is actually taken captive. Lenore is murdered and Bryan is the primary suspect. Someone has set him up. Bryan becomes a fugitive, refusing to surrender and preferring to take the law into his own hands. Unfortunately the “particular set of skills” that Kim seemed to be learning from her father in part two are nowhere in sight here; she’s not quite helpless, but it would’ve been nice to see more character development. After part two, it seemed that series writer-producer Luc Besson was grooming Kim to possibly take over after dad retired (still not a bad idea at all if they wanted to keep the franchise alive).

Early on there are some cool sequences involving Bryan on the run from the cops. He descends into the so-called “rabbit hole,” a stronghold where he can access tools to help make uncovering the mystery of Lenore’s murder easier. But from there, the action set pieces start to become laughable. There’s a car chase midway through that’s bombastic, but more funny than exciting. By the time the final act rolls around, the action has become more generic than anything else. Forest Whitaker is on hand as Inspector Frank Dotzler, the main cop handling the murder case. He loves bagels and carries around a wooden chess piece, but otherwise there’s not much to his character beyond “intuitive cop” clich├ęs.

taken303 (380x252).jpgHonestly, the weight of Lenore’s murder unduly weighs down the film. After everything these characters have been through, it’s a bit too much to put Bryan and Kim through that kind of loss and still remain as buoyantly entertaining as director Olivier Megaton and writer-producer Luc Besson want Taken 3 to be.

Excellent Blu-ray presentation from 20th Century Fox, which of course is nothing less than consumers should expect from even a relatively modestly-budgeted, studio-backed film. Eric Kress’ cinematography appears dark and gritty, and not particularly distinctive, but it is flawlessly presented. Ditto for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix, which cranks up the sonic intensity for the big action scenes without losing sight of the nuances in quieter moments.

taken3213 (380x252).jpgSpecial features are a bit light, with the main attraction being the choice between the 109-minute theatrical cut and a 115-minute unrated version. There’s also an extended deleted sequence, “Flashback Malankov” (seven minutes) which fills us in on more back story centered on the bad guy played by Sam Spruell. There’s a pair of four-minute featurettes, “Taken to L.A.” and “A Taken Legacy” that don’t amount to much. “Sam’s Bunker, aka The Rabbit Hole” is a three-minute animated tour of the secret bunker, narrated by Bryan’s buddy Sam (Leland Orser). That leaves a trailer and a short still gallery. The Blu-ray includes a downloadable Digital Copy.

There are a few relatively exciting action scenes peppering Taken 3, but it seems the saga of Bryan Mills has finally reached a point of exhaustion. Neeson is commanding as usual in what has become his signature role, for better or worse, but it might be time to move on.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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