Liam Neeson

Taken 3 (2015)

Liam Neeson is back as Bryan Mills in Taken 3 – infuriatingly written as Tak3n in some quarters – the second sequel to the surprise hit of 2008. The last entry, Taken 2, followed the idiom of it’s not broke, don’t fix it and essentially became a retread of the first albeit with more daughter, more Famke Janssen and added orienteering with grenades.

This time around Taken 3 turns out to actually be a large misnomer, with no one being taken, swiped, pilfered, shanghaied, kidnapped, shoplifted, disappeared or hijacked. Instead, our Irish hero finds himself on the run from the police when he is set up for the murder of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen in what is fair to say a small cameo). With his ex’s husband from the last two films – now being played by a sleazy Dougray Scott – pointing the finger of blame squarely at him, Bryan must find out who set him up and why. Hot on his heels is Inspector Dozler, played by Forest Whittaker, potentially the slowest detective to hit our screens since Inspector Clouseau.

Whilst the first two films had enough going for them to at least be recommendable to others, Taken 3 is by far one of the laziest sequels we’ve seen since The Hangover Part 3. Breaking from the formula to use a script that was very likely doing the rounds under another name, it suffers greatly from the plot, to the set pieces, to the huge gaping plot holes, to the overall performances of everyone involved. Throw in some retconning of the highest order and a distinct lack of actual action until gone the hour mark, and you are looking at poor night at the cinema, irony be damned.

The audience deserves better, but evidently no one making Taken 3 feels the same way. Here’s hoping T4ken is a long way away.

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Hear that sound? It’s the sound of critics and bloggers stoking up the fire and getting ready to burn the wicker man. And who’s the latest sacrifice? Well, it sounds like Brian the dog from TV’s popular Family Guy… Oh wait, no, it’s Seth MacFarlane from TV’s popular Family Guy.

Since its release, MacFarlane’s foul-mouthed western has been getting a shoeing from all areas. MacFarlane is shy sheepherder, Albert Stark, who loses his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfreid) to the town’s lothario (Neil Patrick Harris). Though its not all bad as here comes Charlize Theron as Anna, who, unknown to Stark, is the wife of hardened outlaw, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson). Anna and Albert’s new relationship is put to the test when Leatherwood comes back to town.

A Million Ways to Die in the West certainly doesn’t stand up to MacFarlane’s previous effort, Ted, but it doesn’t deserve the critical mauling it’s been receiving. The humour is crude and deeply offensive, but it’s also very funny. Sometimes breathtakingly so. Sarah Silverman as a virginal prostitute (yes, you read that right) is a particular standout. However, there’s only so far the shield of irony can protect you and some of the more racial jokes are dubious at best. Just because you’re taking potshots at everyone, doesn’t mean you should.

There’s also the problem with the third act when McFarlane tries to insert some emotion and drama into the proceedings. Slowing down the film to a snail’s pace, it could easily have been jettisoned in favour of some, you know, jokes.

With a stellar performance by Theron and the catchiest song about moustaches you’ll ever hear, A Million Ways to Die in the West is not the vanity project its been branded with (Let’s save that kind of thing for After Earth, guys!), but it is by no means his best work.