Written by Ankit Ojha
What to Expect
So we’re finally through the first big movie of 2015. And I have no idea what to say about it.
But let me go out on a limb and make an attempt anyway.
There are only so many franchises that have crumbled under the expectation levels of the first one. Taken, however, has always been one of those peculiar films for me that just got turned into a franchise because the makers and studios financing them had nothing better to do really. And it’s not that Taken was a bad film; the movie was an exceptionally filmed, breathless 90-minute ride that unfortunately consisted of a highly generic storyline. The plus side was that it was directed by French cinematographer-turned-director Pierre Morel, whose debut in the form of District 13 (or Banlieue 13, if there ever do exist any purist fans of the film) was a great example of how fluid the action set-pieces looked through the movie’s runtime; never mind the rather limp storyline.
But with the dazzling success of Taken – which was mostly deserved, considering how great the movie simply felt as a big-screen experience – it was quite obvious that the movie would warrant a sequel of some kind. Predictably enough, the movie got its sequel, albeit with one major hitch: Olivier Megaton.
For the people who don’t know him, Megaton’s a director who gained some fame in the English-language movie scene by pitching in as director for Transporter 3, which would basically be proof enough that every other product of his should be treated with as much skepticism as should be allowed. The skepticism helped quite a bit for the lazy, lifeless second installment for what (unfortunately) became a franchise, ‘cause I was quite unfazed by how disappointing the movie turned out for itself. I’d be stating the obvious if i said the second one was also quite successful, and the audience decidedly lapped it all up, screaming for a third and “final” installment of Taken to green-light itself, the decision made like it was on autopilot almost.
And now we’re here, with franchise’s apparent third-and-final chapter hitting the screens, bringing back – against all good decision – Olivier Megaton. It is here that the discerning audience should understand what it means for them to enter the theatres expecting any inkling for a good film.
What’s it About?
Nobody gets taken. Bryan Mills’ wife gets killed though, and he’s framed in the process. Escaping the clutches of the police, he intends to clear his name and protect the people he loves.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The movie has a lot of eye-pleasing cinematography through its runtime. Eric Kress (2009’s Swedish adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), to his credit, attempts to add some dramatic flair in the way the frames look.
But that’s just about the only good thing in this rather atrociously directed film. Megaton, through this film, only proves his ever consistent record of ruining just about every action film he’s been a part of. And if that’s not enough, the plot – since it isn’t about anybody being “taken”, on the behest of Neeson, and since they just had to do the film – is fairly unoriginal too, tilting itself dangerously close to the ’93 Harrison Ford starrer The Fugitive (which was an extremely enjoyable film). The thing is that despite any action movie being atrocious, there’s a high chance you’d be generally entertained in the first watch due to the rather fun action set-pieces the movies would feature.
Not Megaton though; you’ve got to be different in this scene of things, don’t you? It’s quite apparent that he took so much care into making an absolutely terrible film, helped only by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen’s incredibly lazy writing of the characters we should have come to know as relatively more developed than they would have been in the first film. With the second, and – now – this film though, all you’re seeing as an audience are cookie-cutter characters that aren’t even remotely affected by all that’s been happening around them.
This is where I’d have to focus on the action set-pieces for some respite; that’s exactly what I paid for, after all didn’t I? it’s almost no surprise thus that almost all the action sequences are shoddily shot and edited to the point of extreme exasperation, helped by some absolutely ludicrous script decisions that make Neeson’s Mills look like the demigod the makers are so desperately forcing us to believe he is. On the one hand, for example, there’s a major explosion triggered by a certain desperate decision Mills takes to escape, pretty much resulting in obvious death, and on the other, Whitaker’s police officer gets a call from Mills, unscathed like the explosion – which obviously happened – never existed.
Against my better judgement at writing a with a mostly unbiased tone, here’s me giving up and screaming to the universe: who does that?
Oh, wait – I guess we already know, don’t we?
To Perform or Not to Perform
Forest Whitaker tries. Really. He does try his best to look like the interesting character he mostly isn’t. Famke Janssen is severely wasted, and Maggie Grace is too old for her role, even though her presence in the film is quite tolerable; this, despite her repetitive character kinks like smelling her dead mother’s clothes throughout the film (are you kidding me?). Sam Spruell is not bad, but his presence seems so unthreatening you don’t give a damn about how antagonizing he’s made to look. Watch out for him as “The Wireman” in Ridley Scott’s rather underrated The Counselor; you’ll find a relatively unsettling antagonist in him right there. Dougray Scott in a laughably bad cameo makes you wonder where did all the confidence he had in Ever After (or even a comparatively better bad-action-movie Mission Impossible II) go. Leland Orser is the only person, apart from Grace, who can lead the bandwagon of supporting actors with some earnestness.
And then there’s Liam Neeson. He’s a fantastic actor who has proved his mettle in performative arts in films like Schindler’s List, Husbands and Wives and – more recently – Batman Begins. The popularity of Taken, however, has cost him his versatility, where despite some rather shining examples of Neeson’s acting abilities (The Grey, Third Person) in his post Bryan-Mills phase, he’s never been able to get out of the shell of his rather memorable performance in the franchise’s first instalment. Suffice to say that he’s quite tolerable, and makes a genuine attempt to shoulder the burden of a shoddily written shadow of a once fun character. You cannot deny though that it’s just quite unfortunate that he’s got a whole set of restrictions around him.
If you’re looking for a Liam Neeson film, watch the marginally better A Walk Among the Tombstones. If you’re looking for a film about a person wronged by the judicial system, watch The Fugitive. If you’re looking for something starring Leland Orser, watch The Guest. If you’re looking to watch a recent Forest Whitaker film, watch The Butler.
If, however, you’re looking for an exceptionally horrible action movie – or even a terrible A-lister movie generally – then start your year with this one. You’ll be mighty pleased, if this is what you’re looking for.
Because, in the end, all it is, is a giant, (admittedly) well-shot, piece of turd.
Star Rating: 0.5 / 5
PS: If you think it “all ends here”, Neeson’s open to doing Taken 4. Brace yourselves.