Taken 3 (2014)

*. “It ends here.” Promises, promises.
*. Actually, and you won’t hear many people say this, I thought this was the best of the Taken movies. This does not mean I thought it was very good. I just thought it was the best of the Taken movies.
*. Why? Well, the race between Bryan Mills and the police to find his wife’s killer was kind of interesting in the usual Fugitive sort of way. The gang of ex-CIA operatives Bryan hangs out with actually get to do something. The bad guys have a bit more personality. A couple of the action scenes are pretty good.
*. To be sure, there are all the usual action clichés. If someone drives at high speed the highway is miraculously clear of traffic. A car goes flipping in the air multiple times. Another car falls off a cliff and then inexplicably bursts into several huge fireballs when it comes to rest. Bad guys fire away at our hero with machine guns at close range without even winging him. Russian gangsters spend their downtime soaking in Jacuzzis that are crammed with whores and drinking champagne.
*. But there are a few interesting touches. A container gets some good air during a highway pile-up. One of the chief bad guys goes full Scarface at the end and fights Bryan dressed in nothing but a bathrobe and his tighty-whiteys. A private jet loses a duel with a Porsche on a runway. None of this is ground-breaking stuff, but it’s not bad, and better than anything I can remember from the first two movies.
*. Poor Stuart St. John. In the first movie he seemed a genial if slightly corrupt Mr. Monopoly. Here he’s played by a different, younger actor and is way slimier.
*. It’s a strange ending. Of course Bryan’s going to kill Stuart, he’s given Stuart his word on it and we know what that’s worth. But we’re not going to actually see him get his revenge. This certainly frustrates expectations, but not in any way that seems meaningful to me. Bryan’s justice hasn’t been superseded by the legal system. He’s only willing to defer to that system just enough to avoid running afoul of it himself.
*. That’s kind of cynical, but then all three of the films take a pretty cynical view of law enforcement, with the police presented as at best obstacles and at worse on the take and in league with the bad guys.
*. It ends here. Sort of. After the three Neeson movies they turned the franchise into a TV series based on Bryan’s early spy career. But that’s a story for another day (and another website). So good-bye Liam, and your particular set of skills. Good-bye Lenny and Kim, two of the most maddening female parts in recent memory. So long, CIA bros (you have a tee time waiting). I can’t say any of you will be missed.

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