‘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.

 

Taken 3 Liam and Maggie

 

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.

 

Taken 3 Liam and Forest

 

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

‘Brick Mansions’ Review

Dir: Camille Delamarre

Cast: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA, Gouchy Boy, Catalina Denis, Ayisha Issa, Robert Maillet and Carlo Rota

Synopsis: An undercover Detroit cop navigates a dangerous neighborhood that’s surrounded by a containment wall with the help of an ex-con in order to bring down a crime lord and his plot to devastate the entire city.

 

 

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

 

 

Mega producer and action director Luc Besson brings one of his popular French movies and of course “Americanize” it. Based on the 2004 French movie Banlieue 13 aka District B13, Besson brings back original star David Belle to play essentially the same character. Instead of a French ghetto, the movie is set in 2018 in Detroit. Brick Mansions is a section of the city where the lower class of people live and is run by drug kingpin Tremaine (RZA). When he gets hold of a bomb, the Mayor of Detroit sends in one of his best undercover cops, Damien (Walker) and teams him up with a Brick Mansions native, Lino (Belle). Once inside, Damien and Lino have their own intention of getting Tremaine.

 

Damien wants revenge for his dead father and Lino wants Tremaine gone from his neighborhood and to save his ex-girlfriend (as opposed to his sister in the original) Lola (Denis). Along with that, they have to avoid getting killed by Tremaine’s gang and his main henchmen K2 (Gouchy Boy) and Rayzah (Issa).

 

Luc Besson, who produced and wrote the first one, comes back and does the same thing here. But it’s director Camille Delamarre (who is a Besson protégé) who adds his own flare to the movie. Unfortunately, Delamarre’s decisions are wonky. There are random moments of slow motion for really no reason and random moments of special effects that almost tarnish the originality and low-level of special effects in the original. I’m not saying Banlieue 13 was a perfect movie and I hate comparing remakes to the originals in reviews, but I feel like it has to be mentioned here because there are things –like the CGI– that compared to the original, make the remake a little uninspiring.

 

The cast itself is a mixed bag. Like I mentioned, original star David Belle comes back and shows off his Parkour skills that also made the original stand out. I will admit, it was interesting to hear him pull an American accent. Belle definitely has a presence on screen and teaming up with Walker was cool to see.

 

Of course, the other leading man is the late Paul Walker (this was his last movie he completed filming before he passed away). Walker’s Damien is fueled only by revenge against Tremaine for killing his father which makes his decision to go into Brick Mansions easier. Walker brings his usual charm to the role, although at times it feels forced and unnatural which is a shame. The team up between Belle and Walker has its strong moments but comes and goes which makes it a bit frustrating.

 

RZA’s Tremaine isn’t even that interesting of a villain. There are scenes that try to make him menacing but they don’t come off that way and most of the stuff he does has been done before in more effective ways. Gouchy Boy’s K2 comes off more of a goof than menacing like the character was in the original. Ayisha Issa’s Rayzah seems more like the real villain, who has an interesting wardrobe, and spends most the time taunting Lola. Robert Maillet’s Yeti is given more to do than his original character but still goes through the motions of being another bad buy with nothing to do.

 

All in all, Brick Mansions has its moments and although the team up of Belle and Walker is nice to see, the movie doesn’t live up the original that much. If you want an action movie to fill up some time and can’t watch the original then this could be passable.

 

Brick Mansions

3 out of 5

‘The Family’ Review

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Dir: Luc Besson

Cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D’ Leo, and Tommy Lee Jones

Synopsis: The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging as their old habits die hard.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.”

 

Based on Tonino Benacquista’s novel Malavita, The Family stars Robert De Niro as Fred Blake aka Giovanni Manzoni, a one-time mob boss now in Witness Protection after ratting out his pals. With a bounty on his head from an imprisoned former Mafia cohort, the authorities (led by Lee Jones) relocate Fred and his family — wife Maggie (Pfeiffer), daughter Belle (Agron), son Warren (D’Leo), and dog Malavita — to Normandy.

Fred and his family try to adapt to life in a boring small French village where the townsfolk don’t seem to be happy with Americans moving into their small town. This leads to altercations with neighbors, local officials, shop keepers, school, you name it. Meanwhile, the mob narrows their search for the family. Needless to say, it wouldn’t be a movie if the bad guys didn’t eventually catch up with the good guys (or in this case, the less bad guys) in a bullets-blazing finale and in a true Luc Besson fashion.

It’s interesting to see De Niro, Lee Jones and Pfeiffer play up their somewhat “typecast” characters. De Niro has poked fun at his mobster film legacy for quite awhile now and he does it here again, but it still works. Pfeiffer, whose early mob wife roles include Scarface and Married to the Mob, puts on an Italian/NY accent that doesn’t sound out of place. Then there’s Tommy Lee Jones playing an unsmiling, no-nonsense lawman. But it all works because there good actors.

As solid as all three major stars are in the film, you may find yourself equally impressed with the two younger leads playing the Blake kids. Agron shows she can do more than simply be that girl from Glee, although at times her performance for me was a bit too much, while new comer D’Leo steals his scenes and proves he’s truly his father’s son.

Like I said this is a Luc Besson-directed movie so there’s plenty of violence (but not gory) and action. Besson throws in flashbacks to Fred’s past criminal life, which helps us get to known more of De Niro’s character. It also helps since the movie is told through Fred’s voice because he’s writing his memoirs. But through this, we see how Fred holds nothing back. He knows he’s done bad things in his past but we still root for him and his family in the end.

All in all, The Family has it all; action, drama, comedy, and a little romance. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and it leads to us having a good time too. Are there things that are a bit predictable? Sure, but it’s still fun to see.

The Family

4 out of 5