Neeson still machismo master in “Taken 3”

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First Posted: 1/13/2015

When “Taken 3” went into production last year I was excited. Not because I was a huge fan of the “Taken” series but because it meant that it was finally Liam Neeson’s turn to be abducted. After all, once his wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter (Maggie Grace) were kidnapped, who’s left?

Neeson, that’s who and this is the “Taken” I really wanted to see. I wanted to see Grace and Janssen finally team up and take on a gang of bumbling Albanians that are led by a cheesy accented Jim Rash in full-on fey, lovable creep mode. I wanted a montage where Grace and Janssen go to a gun shop and ‘try on different guns’ as Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” plays in the background. I wanted the title to be “Taken 3: Daddynapped”.

Unfortunately, life is but an unending string of disappointment and compromise. Instead of being a smile-friendly laughabration, “Taken 3” is “The Fugitive” remade as a schizophrenia simulator. Not that I have a problem with that. I just wanted to watch the one about the Daddynapping.

Yes, as you may already be aware, nobody gets taken in “Taken 3.” However, if you were a bad local critic with a penchant for labored word play, you might note that the audience is being ‘Taken’ for a ride here. But you would be wrong and kind of a dick because even though “Taken 3” is garbage, it’s not quite that level of garbage. Some entertainment can still be had in watching the paranoid delusions and shallow desires of Middle America uncomfortably splayed across the silver screen for all the world to point and gawk at.

Neeson, who, once again, isn’t playing a character as much as he’s playing the human embodiment of your father’s xenophobic fear that foreign people will steal you and then sell you to brown people who will touch you – goes out bagel shopping one day to find his ex-wife (Janssen) murdered in his sad, little bachelor bed. Using his particular set of skills, Neeson (who, it should be noted, isn’t playing himself here. But let’s not kid ourselves. When was the last time Liam Neeson played a character that isn’t basically just Liam Neeson? “Schindler’s List”?) goes on the lam in order to clear his name and find his wife’s killer who might be Albanian or something else entirely. I don’t know. Meanwhile, Forest Whitaker plays a detective who is just so very tired. He’s going to catch, y’know, Neeson, or whatever, but he needs five minutes. Do you have a couch back there he could stretch out on for a while? Because he is exhausted.

If you couldn’t already guess, I had some problems with “Taken 3.” Mainly, the fact the film perpetuates the negative stereotype that Albanians have disappointing haircuts. Less important but still significant in its own way are the action sequences and just how confusing and frequently seizure-inducing they can be. The simple act of running or driving a car is reduced to an incomprehensible series of extreme close-ups of spinning wheels, barking dogs and inexplicable establishing shots of Los Angeles.

The action sequences are so disconnected, frenetic and unwatchable they practically function as some kind of Godard-ian deconstruction of action sequences. But on the plus side, much like its predecessors, “Taken 3” is stupid. Enjoyably stupid. Thrill as Neeson stops a jet plane by crashing his car through the retractable landing gear. Marvel as Neeson forces his 31-year-old daughter to drink a poisoned smoothie and not only knows which ladies room she’ll run to on her college campus, but also the exact stall (Don’t worry. Neeson gives her a magic CIA potion that instantly stops the effects of poisoning). Quiver as an Albanian man hits on a woman by turning a matchbox into a walkie-talkie that he uses to pretend to talk to rabbits.

“Taken 3” is a bad movie. But then, you already knew that. And besides, it’s not like its apparent shittiness is going to stop either of us from watching this again on Netflix a year from now. Nor will it prevent us from seeing “Taken 4: Daddynapped” (fingers crossed!) in theaters. We may need an alarmist, jingoistic action movie like we need another hole in the head, but “Taken 3” is the good kind of head hole. The kind that mellows out your dream patterns and chases away evil spirits, man (Fact: trepanation is not a crime, Mom).