Take it away

Hyper-dramatic police work and chaotic editing are the memorable parts of Taken 3, a film which is soaking in its own unnecessary existence. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) still shoots people, although it is difficult to tell when or where or how. Most of the feature feels stuck in a frame skip.

Taken 3’s voracious appetite for chewing shots and spitting out the next one creates a movie seemingly captured under a strobe light. Maybe Neeson’s age is finally being shown – or not shown rather – by this desperate attempt at plugging holes in the choreography.

Outside of its technique, an eye irritant for sure, Taken 3 is but a mere abstract of a modern action movie. Mills has completed the transformation from calculated killer and swift thinker into the heroic equivalent of an indestructible horror villain. Mills takes more death blows than Jason Vorhees.

All of this action, whether Mills is punching police or pointing guns, is riding on a listless story

This third entry finds someone taken in a most definitive way, leading Mills to reenact The Fugitive, only it was not a one-armed man. It was Russians, because it’s always Russians now. Can the Cold War be nostalgic? All of this action, whether Mills is punching police or pointing guns, is riding on a listless story which neither has the spunk nor the urgency which began this swiftly profitable series. There is no purpose, just an excuse to jump start this sometimes/sometimes not hero into a frenzy.

Of the losses, it’s Kim (Maggie Grace) who steps into a wider role and deals with her character’s turn into full womanhood, only be sucked into a helpless damsel role for purposes of the finale. Taken 3 dances around cliches before bluntly acquainting itself with a menagerie of them. This may be the worst.

Series writer Luc Besson (along with Robert Mark Kamen) executes against form. This third film neither has the wit nor the enthusiasm of the previous works. The lunacy of Jason Statham’s Transporter films is bleeding over. For what it was, Taken was meticulous in exposing the horrid criminality of sex trafficking under the cover of Neeson’s action persona. Taken 3, by comparison, is empty spectacle. There is no weight, no power, no oomph. Just revenge, and it’s limp.

Certainly, Taken 3 is loud. Car crashes, explosions, shotguns. They’re all here, ceaseless too once Taken 3 is on the run. If anything, this series has been a lesson in how box office receipts eventually pervert otherwise competent – great, even – action cinema. Make it bigger, make it faster, but always with less context. This is longest Taken to date, and the one with the least narrative substance. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

This shot could be from any Taken @ 1:26:33

New cinematographer Eric Kress keeps Taken in the world of film. Grain is immediately noticeable. Introductory scenes carry the strongest levels before the film stock settles down into an attractive and consistent layering.

Texture is thus preserved. Facial definition is special. Close-ups, in conjunction with a blistering contrast, resolve all pores, scrapes, or dirt. Medium shots are likewise sharp. Establishing aerials reach as far as the horizon lets them. Resolution is rich.

While all of Taken 3’s imagery is aggressive, color timing is almost sickening. Levels of orange are so thick, few other colors are allowed to penetrate – except minor areas of teal, of course. The post-production digitization is absurd. Flesh tones are blown out and the California/Spain location scenery appears to be under some form of fire-based radiation event.

Also of note are black levels, certainly discussion makers lately with regards to Sony discs. Here, this time from Fox, they become crush-happy too, if not to notable extremes. Given the level of tinkering and equally vicious contrast, black crush hardly seems like the imagery’s key hurdle. It’s there, but not as out of place as it was in something like Sony’s The Interview. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

Fox provides DTS-HD for this one, a 5.1 mix which is fun if as turbulent as the editing. Good luck trying to follow the audio between cuts. As a plane crashes down on a runway for the finale, screeching metal jumps from every speaker in an attempt to keep up. At least the LFE maintains a comparatively steady rumble.

It is impressive how quickly the mixing stays on course. A foot chase through a school has all manner of panicking students and fire alarms. This is arguably the most stable of the key action scenes. Most of the ambient sounds stay in place. By the time Taken 3 has reached a freeway chase, it becomes a mass of sound without much in the way of detectable direction.

The one constant is the low-end though which has moments, even in that same street chase. When a shipping container is cut loose, it hits concrete and smashes cars with a massive jolt. Taken 3 has no wasted gunfire either – shotguns deliver more weight than handguns. Such a use of varying levels is pleasing and appropriate. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Bonuses are short lived. A single deleted scene is of little interest, and a few bonus featurettes look at the production design, location shoot, and the series overall. Note the disc also offers an extended cut which adds about five minutes and would have landed the film an R-rating. However, lower expectations. The new material is hardly exciting. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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