‘Taken 3’ Review

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Dir: Olivier Megaton

Writer(s): Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen

Cast: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Don Harvey, Dylan Bruno, David Warshofsky, Jon Gries, Andrew Howard, Leland Orser, Sam Spruell, and Dougray Scott

Synopsis: Ex-government operative Bryan Mills is accused of a ruthless murder he never committed or witnessed. As he is tracked and pursued, Mills brings out his particular set of skills to find the true killer and clear his name

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Believe it or not, Taken 3 doesn’t anybody taken, at least in the way the first two films did. Taken 3 actually has someone close to the Mills family die and has Bryan Mills (Neeson) framed for it. So this should have made the last installment (that we know of) more dramatic, thrilling, and unpredictable. So did we get that? Sort of. Taken 3 has elements that work really well, but with a already limited premise, pretty weak script, and Olivier Megaton’s terrible directing job, the cast does their best to make the movie work and enjoyable.

 

Taken 3 starts off with the villain, Oleg Malankov (Spruell), killing some random accountant to a mystery man because the mystery man owes Malankov money. Of course a beginning like that does two things, makes you wonder how they will connect to the main story/mystery element and shows off how deadly and serious Malankov will be. That is when he shows up, as Malankov disappears until the last half hour and we left to follow his henchmen and Maxim (Howard).  Then we go to the main story of Bryan, like the other movies, being happy and still trying to keep his family connection together. He goes to visit Kim (Grace), who dealing with something of her own, and meets up with his ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) again as they start to rekindle their feelings again.

 

Lenore tells him things aren’t working with her husband Stuart (now played by Dougray Scott replacing Xander Berkeley from the first film), but Bryan being the honorable man doesn’t want things to happen until they are cleared up. This leads Stuart to going to Bryan and telling him he wants to make things work and basically tells him to back off, which Bryan agrees to. Of course the trailer gives this away part away but Lenore is found dead in Bryan’s apartment and is framed to look like he did, which Bryan knows and runs from the police. This brings in Inspector Franck Dotzler (Whitaker) who is in charge to bring Bryan in for questioning.

 

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Like I wrote before, Taken 3 has some good elements working for it. The drama in Taken 3 feels like the first Taken although not as strong and during some of the action sequences it actually feels like they mean something, as opposed to Taken 2. One of the bad things, if not the worse thing next to Megaton’s terrible sense of direction, is the movie feels pretty predictable. It does try to swerve you into another direction but when it comes back to your original predication, you feel kind of dumb letting the movie fool you. That might be nitpicky but considering the movie doesn’t have a ton working for it there is some things to criticize.

 

The movie’s saving grace is Liam Neeson. Neeson is as reliable as ever and considering this is his third and final time playing a man with a particular set of skills. His take of Bryan this time is more determined than before but Neeson is so good at delivering one-liners and acting gruff that it’s probably second nature to him at this point.

 

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The supporting cast is not that bad, although they aren’t without their clichés. Maggie Grace isn’t a damsel in distress like the first film but has less to do here than she did in Taken 2. Forest Whitaker’s Franck Dotzler character is a by-the-books kind of cop but has his own ways of figuring out a case. Whitaker does fine but some poor character choices in script make the character sometimes laughable.

 

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Speaking of laughable, have I mentioned Oliver Megaton’s direction? I have? Well, let me go back then. I don’t mind shaky cam, if done moderation and doesn’t take away from the action sequences, but Megaton doesn’t follow that idea and instead makes all of the action feel and seem worthless, because he’d rather shake the camera and make the audience feel like they are there instead of letting us enjoy the scene for what it is.

 

All in all, Taken 3 is a mixed bag. While not as good the first Taken, it is better than Taken 2 even though that’s not saying much since the sequel didn’t have a lot going for it. Neeson does his best to carry the movie but all in all, this might be the place to end the Taken series.

 

 

Taken 3

3.5 out of 5

‘The Guest’ Review

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Dir: Adam Wingard

Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Tabatha Shaun, Joel David Moore, and Lance Reddick

Synopsis: A soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

The team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett is one that I’m starting to fully invest in. They caught eyes of general audiences with You’re Next and segments in V/H/S and its sequel. But they also made a highly enjoyable survivor thriller A Horrible Way to Die but with this new movie The Guest, Wingard who serves as the director and Barrett as the writer, they bring a great homage to the old movies of James Carpenter and 70s and 80s horror/thriller films.

 

The movie starts off with Laura Peterson (Kelley) who is grieving over the death of her son Caleb when a mysterious charming man shows up calming to be an old army friend named David (Stevens). He quickly wins over the family that includes the bullied son Luke (Meyer), rebellious daughter Anna (Monroe), and frustrated husband Spencer (Orser). Soon though, we start to realize that David is not who he says he is and terrible things start to happen.

 

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Almost like You’re Next, The Guest shares the same vibe as a movie from the 70s and 80s. It’s got action, dread, mystery, some dark comedy and catchy synthesizer music. Wingard knows exactly what he’s doing and finds the balance of all the tones running through the movie and manages to make every one of those moments enjoyable and fun to watch. It does have a rough part right before the final act but the nice thing is that even the characters are aware of it and even rolls their own eyes. In any other movie it would seem too self aware and cheesy and it is here, but considering the rest of the movie, it’s actually welcomed.

 

But The Guest isn’t just defined by its tone or feel, but by the performance of Dan Stevens. Stevens is wildly known for his performance in Downton Abbey, but never seeing the show, I can assume that this is nothing compared to what he’s done there. Stevens does a fantastic job of balancing David’s personalities through the movie. He has his charm about him and calls people “sir” and “ma’am” but the time it takes for him to get you to like him, David can switch to a menacing demeanor, which was truly frightening in some occasions. The nice thing is that he never really overdoes it and makes the movie hard to watch, in the sense that you never know what’s going to happen when David enters a room.

 

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The hard part is deciding what you think of David. He acts as a defender to the Peterson family – deals with some bullies for Luke – but since his actions are so brutal, it makes you think if the Petersons made the right choice in bringing in David or not. But, again, Stevens’ performance is so well done that you end up rooting for him, even though his actions are very exciting but brutal.

 

The other performances are a little hard to judge since we spend a lot of time with Stevens, and even when he’s not on screen the movie kind of slows down. Lance Reddick shows up as a man from David’s past and does what he can with the role but really goes nowhere expect to tell Anna about David. Brendan Meyer as Luke Peterson sees David as a friend and possibly surrogate brother as David teaches Luke to stand up for himself. Meyer does okay as the younger brother who finally finds someone he can talk to and a friend.

 

Finally there is Maika Monroe as Anna. The role really could have gone the way of Anna being a bit bitchy, but instead Anna is a bit standoffish, which is understandable once you understand the dynamic of the family. As the movie progress she suspects that David isn’t really who he says he is and rapidly sees David is a different light. Monroe is a relativity newcomer and manages to hold her own against Stevens. One particular scene stands out to me around the halfway point when Anna confronts David about who he is.

 

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All in all, The Guest has a great mixture of tones and pays a nice homage to other films from the past. With a great score and performance by Dan Stevens, The Guest is a fun, scary, and enjoyable ride from start to finish.

 

 

The Guest

4.5 out of 5