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Movie Night – 'Taken 3' brings entertainment, lacks sense (Jan. 21, 2015 issue)

What do you expect from an action movie? Do you expect running, jumping, fighting, shooting, car chases, bad guys dying and good guys saving the day? If you answered yes to all of those then you will enjoy “Taken 3.” If you want great acting, great writing and a logical, believable plot, you might want to avoid this movie.
While no one is actually “taken” in this movie, “Taken 3” has a similar formula to the first two movies. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) seems to be living the good life. He is near his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), has good friends, a good job, and a good relationship with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). His days as a black-ops agent for the CIA are long behind him.
Mills’ tranquility is shattered when he finds Lenore in his apartment, in his bed, dead. Murdered. The police quickly appear on the scene thanks to an “anonymous” tip and try to arrest Mills. I say try because everyone knows Mills wouldn’t let that happen.
On the run from the LAPD, Mills vows to catch Lenore’s killer and protect Kim. Inspector Frank Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) is tasked with the job of capturing Mills. Dotzler is not your average cop, he’s cerebral and introspective, a quiet and thoughtful detective. Dotzler immediately knows something is wrong with the scenario of Mills as the killer. Still, Mills was caught red-handed with a bloody knife in his hand standing over Lenore’s body. Dotzler must find Mills to sort out the whole mess.
Mills will not allow himself to be arrested by anyone. He can’t find the killer or protect Kim from a jail cell. He and Dotzler run parallel investigations, Mills is only a half-step in front of the police.
Enjoying “Taken 3” is all about managing expectations. If you liked the first two movies in the series (for the record, the original “Taken” is one of the greatest action flicks of all time), then chances are you’ll like this movie too. But the final movie in the series is not on par with the first two movies. Liam Neeson is up to his old tricks as Bryan Mills, but this time Neeson’s age seems to have caught up with him. He no longer appears to be the unstoppable force he was in the first two movies, but rather a man desperate to defeat his younger and stronger enemies.
A welcome addition to “Taken 3” was Forest Whitaker as Inspector Dotzler. Whitaker plays the role with panache. He was imminently believable as the detective who uses unusual methods to solve crimes that no one else can solve because no one else is as smart as him.
In contrast to Dotzler, Sam Spruell as Oleg Malankov, the Russian mobster at the center of the plot, did not work. Malankov was not, for lack of a better phrase, bad enough. He seemed almost like a cartoon caricature of a Russian gangster. The Malankov character was more ridiculous than scary.
The primary issue with the movie is the clear lack of logic that permeated the script. Much of the movie simply made no sense. Several of the action scenes were in direct contradiction to the physical laws of the universe. Also, many of the action scenes were so chaotic it’s hard to understand exactly what was happening, who was winning the fight.
All of which takes me back to my initial point, if you go into the theater expecting a mindless action flick, a little distraction from the everyday world, “Taken 3” is the movie for you. If, on the other hand, you prefer a movie that makes sense or makes you use your brain a little, save your money.
Grade: B
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and for brief strong language.