One of the watershed moments of Liam Neeson’s career was his sudden emergence as a viable action star in the original Taken, directed by Frenchman Pierre Morel from the Luc Besson stable of B grade R rated genre films. The memorable catchphrase, “I don’t know who you are but if you don’t let my daughter go I will find you and I will kill you,” became a pop culture reference point. In his late fifties at the time, this was a marked shot in the arm for his career and allowed the Irish actor to diversify his considerable talent. Unfortunately the sequels that have quickly followed, as if rushed to production to align with a pre-ordained release schedule, lack the brutal, efficient energy of the original. They seem to get worse with each film. The R rating has been replaced with a PG rating to ensure more people see the film. Olivier Megaton has directed the second and third films, whilst Morel has recently completed the Sean Penn action vehicle The Gunman with a killer cast including Idris Elba and Javier Bardem.
Writers Besson and Kamen clearly decided to infuse a plot into the new film. The early death of a leading character, sets up a Fugitive like scenario in Los Angeles in which Bryan Mills becomes the hunter and the hunted. Dirty corrupt Russians figure, with distinctive tattoos to telegraph they are the bad guys and Forest Whitaker playing the Tommy Lee Jones role spends much of the film eating bagels and twisting a rubber band around his fingers to signal intelligence. The action scenes are edited in a way designed to confuse, the freeway sequence as a case in point, I had little idea of what was happening from one-second to the next, thanks to the rapid fire editing techniques and noise levels deployed. In comparison the Bourne films use the same style but the result is breathtakingly satisfying in comparison. The editors Nicolas Trembasiewicz and Audrey Simonaud have a back catalogue of music video work together with Besson films.
Perhaps Taken 4 will be an origin story, where we learn how Bryan Mills attained his unque skillset. As the credits rolled on the latest installment I was reminded of the closing montage from 22 Jump Street as the series progressively gets more ridiculous until Schmidt and Jenko end up in outer space in 2121 Jump Street. Taken 3 has already achieved this status.