Tag Archives: Taken

Taken 3

A predictable but acceptable plot, with the always reliable modern action film icon Neeson performing well enough, belied by some dodgy direction decisions and insufferable action set pieces.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

taken 3 2Does anyone still remember 2012? It wasn’t that long ago. Back when times were simpler. Well, they were simpler for me anyway. Back then, James was still the site editor and I was just a lowly Brummie who accidentally joined his fledgling film entertainment podcast after covering for an incapacitated Gerry.

Nevertheless, it also happened to be around August of that year that I watched the original Taken film for the first time, almost two months prior to the release of its sequel. Like a lot of other people, I too loved it, as much of a latecomer as I was. As a throwback to classic Stallone-era action thrillers with its outright evil bad guy, cannon fodder in every scene and an escalating sense of dread, it was immensely entertaining. Not only that, but the European location, fast pace, brutal execution scenes and anti-hero character of Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a former CIA Agent hunting down the nasty non-American’s in Paris who’ve taken his daughter (Maggie Grace), it also meant it was the contemporary thriller for a new generation. It left behind the steroid-enhanced pectorals and biceps of the 80’s, the hair gel and smirking faces of the 90’s, and went instead for simply an ordinary looking (yet highly skilled) father tracking down his abducted daughter.

Each decade has its own action movies that defines it. Whether through the real blossoming of the genre in the 60’s in Where Eagles Dare, or a James Cameron blockbuster such as True Lies in the 90’s. There’s always at least one movie that seems recognisably “of its time”, yet still produces enormous amounts of satisfaction even today. I believe that the genre during the 2000’s is defined by three movies. Most notably, The Bourne Identity, Casino Royale and Taken. Not necessarily my favourites, but they’re the Die Hard‘s of their decade; the Rambo‘s of their time. At a push, in the first half of this decade, I suppose you could state that the defining action films so far would probably be The Raid and/or the comic book adventure actioners like Avengers Assemble; though there’s still plenty of time left for someone to pull a new classic out of the bag! Maybe this will finally be the decade that belongs to Van Damme? I can but hope.

As for Taken‘s sequels, they’re not quite so iconic or game changing. I’m not going to discuss Taken 2 in great detail. James made a stance back in 2012, and it seems only fair to continue to honour it. However, Taken 3 (or Tak3n as it is called by people trying to save a couple of characters in their Tweets) is fair game as far as I’m concerned.

It’s the first in the franchise to be set entirely in the USA. Immediately, that is cause for some concern. Part of what made Taken so distinguishable was that overriding Luc Besson European influence. The plot to Tak3n sees Bryan set up for the murder of his ex-wife. Using his very particular skills acquired over a long career, he is on the run from the law (led by Forest Whitaker making his debut in the series) whilst trying to get the person responsible… before they get to his daughter!

To say the previous film was great would be a lie. It isn’t. At all. The PG-13 (12A) rating held back on some of the violence and bad language, but it still had a grim ferocity underlining it. Murder was committed not in the name of justice, but revenge; and you were still somehow rooting for the guy doing it. The problem I had is that although the severity may not be as toned down as the majority of 12A movies, in most cases the more extreme moments are implied or happen off screen (which somehow makes it more acceptable to younger audiences?)

With Taken 3, this is still a problem. It too is a 12A in order to reach as wide an audience as possible, despite not actually changing the message of the film. It just has no blood and very little swearing, which suddenly means it’s fine for those under 12 to watch. Odd that, isn’t it? Best not to corrupt their mind with too many “fuck”‘s or “shit”‘s, eh? But let’s have this guy shoot someone in the face, that’s all dandy.

Sorry, went off on a bit of a tangent then. Anyway, it’s the use of jump-cuts during the action sequences that is absolutely horrendous to look at rather than the level of violence. It’s a bloody action film that, first of all, hides most of the action. If that’s not bad enough, the relentless jump-cutting during absolutely everything intended to be thrilling does little more than induce fits of nausea. I counted along with the more elaborate action scenes to see how long each shot was on screen for before it flicked to the next. Literally (literally literally, not figuratively literally) one second per shot. Whether it was Bryan first evading the police after finding Leonore’s (Famke Janssen) lifeless body in his apartment, or chasing down an aeroplane in a Porsche, there was barely any time to even register what you were seeing, nevermind make sense of it all. Bourne is often credited with originating this in the modern actioner. As per a discussion I had on Twitter recently, the word “frenetic” used to describe “a mess” instead of inferring “energy” in a scene can probably be attributed to the way the swarm of Doug Liman/Paul Greengrass copycats failed to emulate the Bourne films. But this really is a mess. Director Olivier Megaton apparently doesn’t even like action movies, yet was convinced to direct the series because he was told he was good at shooting them. Whoever told him that needs shooting.

That’s not to say the the film is entirely bad. The plot is quite a simple one, but then that’s always worked in Taken‘s favour. It’s an action-come-revenge thriller series. It has a few twists and reveals, a change of character here, an unexpected death there. It’s just that of the three so far, this is the most predictable. I don’t care what you think, nobody could’ve predicted using grenades as an impromptu sat-nav in Taken 2.

It’s not even the characters that let it down; Forest Whitaker’s introduction and dodgy police work was absolutely fine, all things considered. As were all of Neeson’s former CIA buddies, come to mention it, who I personally would’ve liked to have seen more of. Sure, the baddies are slightly generic, with their faux non-specific Eastern European accents, but they more than fulfill their role in the plot.

Liam Neeson is always watchable in these films (when you can see him in between the psychedelic jump cuts, that is). Whether it’s Unknown, The Grey or last year’s Non-Stop and A Walk Among the Tombstones, 7 or 8 years ago it would seem bizarre to say it, but he is now the archetypal modern action hero and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a good thing. It’s just a shame that Taken 3 is not a better platform for him to perform in.

The end of the film does suggest a Taken 4 (or T4ken) and that should be no surprise to anyone. The runaway success of the original, initially thought to be little more than a DVD-earner, suggests they will continue to make these movies until Neeson quits or Besson stops making a profit on them. With a better director, an improved script and (dare I say it) an 18 rating, there is still potential left in the series. Somewhere. Probably.

Taken 3 is in cinemas right now and you can hear Owen talk about it on the next episode of the Failed Critics podcast.

Best Films on TV: 15 – 21 July

Our picks this week have been chosen by Owen Hughes, who managed to peel his eyes off the TV screen for 10 minutes to tell you what you should be watching.

watchmenMonday 15th July – Watchmen (Film4, 23.10)

Zack Snyder‘s best film is our best film on TV for today. Pretty much a direct adaptation of Alan Moore‘s most notable work, the graphic novel ‘Watchmen’, only with more slow-motion fight sequences à la 300, an absolutely incredible opening titles sequence and a slightly altered ending. It’s long (the run time, not Dr Manhattan’s .. private parts) but worth it. A slick, cool and entertaining crime-drama-come-action-sci-fi-film.

Tuesday 16th July – Training Day (ITV4, 23.00)

I was tempted to pick Crank: High Voltage on 5* at 22.00 based on the fact the first film is so good. I’ve not seen High Voltage, therefore I’m defaulting to one of ITV4’s favourite (or, at least, most often played) films, Training Day. Featuring rookie cop Ethan Hawke and more notably the morally ambiguous cop Denzel Washington, who won an Oscar for his performance. Worth a watch if you’ve never seen it before, or a re-watch if you have!

Wednesday 17th July – Planet of the Apes (1967) (Channel 4, 13:05)

Yes you finally made a monkey out of meeeeee!” Unfortunately, there has never been a feature length musical of Monkey Planet. We will have to console ourselves with just this classic instead! The ultimate in sci-fi mystery films, with Charlton Heston leading the way as an astronaut who crashes on a planet overruled with apes, it’s always worth a watch and you can find my thoughts on a few of the sequels in my Decade In Film articles on the 70’s.

Thursday 18th July – Sudden Death (ITV4, 23:45)

I’m not even picking this Die Hard rip-off because it’s a Van Damme film, there genuinely isn’t any better film on TV on Thursday! Knocked Up? Season of the Witch? Waterworld? Come on. At least with Sudden Death you can watch JCVD fighting bodyguards in an ice-hockey rink whilst terrorists try to overtake the … I did mention it was a Die Hard rip off, didn’t I? Same shit, different film.

Friday 19th July – Super (Film4, 22.55)

“Shut up, Crime!” is a pretty good tagline! Director James Gunn’s foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is released next year with highly anticipated space-opera Guardians of the Galaxy. I imagine it will be somewhat lighter in tone than his previous darkly comic vigilante hero film, Super. Featuring “Dwight, from The Office US” (aka Rainn Wilson) as the slightly simple minded loser who just wants to be a hero, Ellen Page as a twisted sidekick, and Kevin Bacon as the smarmy villain, Super is a complex and violent satire. Not quite comedy, not quite drama, it’s a weird mix of genres that shows the potential Gunn has that will hopefully be realised soon.

Saturday 20th July – Taken (Film4, 21.00)

The film that unexpectedly made Liam Neeson into an action star! Written by Luc Besson (Leon, Fifth Element, The Transporter) and directed by Pierre Morel, Taken is an action thriller that sees just how far one man will go to get his daughter back. Kind of like Commando, except for the 00’s rather than the 80’s (ergo it’s darker, it’s gritty and has hardly any one liners or muscle bound Austrians in it at all).

Sunday 21st July – Dumb & Dumber (Channel 5, 22.00)

Best way to round off the weekend is always with a comedy, I think. This classic Jim Carrey vehicle has plenty of gags; it’s consistently funny and memorable with a very simple plot executed to perfection. One of those sorts of films that manages to stay funny no matter how many times you watch it.

Failed Critics Triple Bill: Revenge Movies

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for perfect sound quality, I can tell you I don’t have money for decent equipment. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a pretty short podcasting career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you download the podcast, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will put it on your iPod without you knowing.

In other words – on Triple Bill this week we talk about our favourite Revenge Movies!

Join us next week for our TV Specials.



Failed Critics Review: ParaNorman

This week on Failed Critics we talk about the story of a youngster with no friends and an unhealthy obsession with ropey zombie films. And as well as moaning at Owen pulling a sickie, we also review stop-motion kiddie-horror film ParaNorman!

Thank you, we’re here all week. Please try the fish.

Despite Owen’s absence, we still put together a meaty podcast for you this week – with reviews of the latest Stiller/Vaughan comedy The Watch, Hidden (Cache), and Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 heist film The Killing.

James also passionately puts forward his case for Failed Critics not reviewing Taken 2.

Join us later in the week for our Winter Preview Triple Bill.



Why we will not be reviewing Taken 2

“It seems to me that more and more we’ve come to expect less and less from each other, and I think that should change” – Aaron Sorkin

If my life was an Aaron Sorkin TV show not only would I be funnier (and probably fitter from all the walking and talking), but today would be the day I made a principled and ultimately futile stand against something that is going very wrong in the industry that I love.

A small, and very deluded, part of me feels I am following in the fictional footsteps of Jed Bartlett or Will McAvoy today. Enough is enough, and someone needs to take a stand.

As we mentioned on this week’s Failed Critics Review, Taken 2 (the sequel to the trashy but entertaining Liam Neeson revenge-thriller Taken) has received a 12a certificate for cinema release in the UK. We were worried this would lead to a toning-down of the violence and bad language in a film franchise which previously relied entirely on violence and bad language.

Overnight the first reviews have started to appear online, and it looks as though things are worse than we feared. The language and violence has been cut, but in such a way that scenes now apparently make now sense.

Den of Geek have written a wonderful piece on Taken 2’s decision to seek a 12a certificate and the recent trend of studios to provide an ‘uncut’ version of films for home release. They’ve also reviewed the film, and have given their readers the full facts to make up their own minds.

But we will not be reviewing Taken 2.

Failed Critics is a very small blog run by me in my spare time and with contributions from people also giving up their spare time. We don’t get to see press previews of films weeks ahead of release. When we review a film on the podcast, it’s based entirely on the experience we had of paying to watch a film in a cinema.

And I am not going to pay a penny to watch Taken 2.

We’ve paid to see some pretty terrible films this year. I don’t begrudge spending my money on any of them (even the exceedingly lazy Dark Shadows) as I realise that the deficiencies in those films may not only be subjective, but will if they do exist they are caused by constraints of creativity, talent, money, or a misguided belief of ‘what the public want’.

The Taken 2 situation is different in that they have a cut of the film they know is better, but they would rather put out an inferior product that they know doesn’t work purely to get 12 year olds (and younger) to come and see the film.

Let’s look at that again. A company is knowingly putting out an inferior product, and they expect us to still pay full price for it. Then they hope we’ll pay again for the privilege to watch the ‘fixed’ product.

That naked greed and disregard for their customers shouldn’t be rewarded.

There’s also a moral issue here. Should we really be condoning a company that wants to market Death Wish-style films to children? Personally I have never seen a credible link between movie violence and violent behavior in children – but that still doesn’t mean that certain films are appropriate for children to watch. What happened to the divide between adult and family entertainment? The answer to falling cinema attendances is not to retool adult films to get more kids through the doors. Choose who your market is, and make the very best films for that market that you can.

Last weekend the top two films at the UK box office were Dredd and Lawless. Both very violent and stylized 18 certificate films. Dredd’s bravery in unfashionably going for an 18 certificate was rewarded, and will almost inevitably lead to a captive audience for sequels. If there’s any justice, Taken 2 will be the end of the Taken franchise as we know.

As consumers we don’t have many choices, but the choices we do have are powerful. Don’t give your hard-earned money to studios that show you no respect. I’m not saying that every film released should, or even can be a masterpiece. All I’m saying is that studios and distributors should do us the courtesy of releasing they very best products that they can.

That is why we will not review Taken 2 until we get access to the cut the director intended us to watch.