Tag Archives: EuropaCorp

Taken 2 (2012, Olivier Megaton), the unrated version

Besides a truly excellent real time (or very close to it) sequence where Maggie Grace avoids being kidnapped in order to help already kidnapped parents Liam Neeson and Famke Janssen, there's not much to Taken 2. Even the action-packed finale is a disappointment. I had been hoping it'd match that long sequence–which goes from a foot chase to car chase, with action moments throughout–but it's like everyone gave up and truncated the ending.

Maybe Neeson had it in his contract the movie could only run so long. A major part of his performance is his visible distain for the film; he incorporates the world weariness into the part well, but one can't help notice he doesn't run very often and many of the complicated action choreography happens when he's offscreen.

Still, director Megaton does a perfectly adequate job. Taken 2 is fast and dumb, no one seems to disagree. Writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen don't even try to fill the runtime with action and intrigue–there's a long first act setting up Janssen and Grace visiting Istanbul with Neeson. The writers pretend spending time with the characters will make the audience care, but really… no one cares. Not the writers, not the actors. They all do okay enough–even Grace, who looks about twenty-two as a teenager (which isn't bad, considering she was twenty-eight or so during filming).

Maybe it'd be better if Rade Serbedzija's villain weren't so lame, but why bother caring. Like I said, no one else does.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Olivier Megaton; written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen; director of photography, Romain Lacourbas; edited by Camille Delamarre and Vincent Tabaillon; music by Nathaniel Méchaly; production designer, Sébastien Inizan; produced by Besson; released by EuropaCorp.

Starring Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills), Maggie Grace (Kim), Famke Janssen (Lenore), Leland Orser (Sam), Jon Gries (Casey), D.B. Sweeney (Bernie), Luke Grimes (Jamie) and Rade Serbedzija (Murad Krasniqi).


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The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010, Luc Besson)

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is almost too precious for its own good. It’s so enraptured with the world it creates–Paris in 1911, where pterodactyls and mummies can come back to life–it sometimes forgets to get the viewer as involved.

Besson does a fantastic job bringing that world to life and a lot of it is close to being his best work… but there’s a disconnect. The beginning takes quite a while to introduce the lead–Louise Bourgoin makes the film as the titular Adèle–and in that instance, it has some charm. It seems like the supporting cast is going to have something to do with her. Regardless of the actual plot, she’s got to be the focus.

But she’s often not. I mean, she doesn’t even have a scene with Gilles Lellouche, who has the second-most screen time. He’s a comic police inspector who’s crossing paths with everyone but Bourgoin.

I imagine it’s a facet faithful to the source comic book (which I have unfortunately yet to read–Tardi is fantastic and is only now getting translated and printed in the States). In other words, there’s Besson being too precious again. It feels like he’s doing a straight narrative adaption of the source material, instead of making the storytelling approach appropriate for film.

There are some nice supporting performances, particularly from Jacky Nercessian and Nicolas Giraud.

Besson’s enthusiasm to sell it as a franchise leaves the ending wanting, making a film with the potential to be singular just good instead.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Luc Besson; screenplay by Besson, based on the comic book by Jacques Tardi; director of photography, Thierry Arbogast; edited by Julien Rey; music by Eric Serra; production designer, Hugues Tissandier; produced by Virginie Silla; released by EuropaCorp Distribution.

Starring Louise Bourgoin (Adèle Blanc-Sec), Mathieu Amalric (Dieuleveult), Gilles Lellouche (Inspecteur Albert Caponi), Jean-Paul Rouve (Justin de Saint-Hubert), Jacky Nercessian (Marie-Joseph Espérandieu), Philippe Nahon (Le professeur Ménard), Nicolas Giraud (Andrej Zborowski), Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (Agathe Blanc-Sec), Gérard Chaillou (Président Armand Fallières), Serge Bagdassarian (Ferdinand Choupard), Claire Perot (Nini les Gambettes), François Chattot (Raymond Pointrenaud), Stanislas De la Tousche (Le chauffeur Pointrenaud) and Youssef Hajdi (Aziz).


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From Paris with Love (2010, Pierre Morel)

So, coming off their collaborative success of Taken, Morel and producer Luc Besson decide to… make a John Travolta star vehicle? It’s about ten years too late and probably something someone should have made before Battlefield: Earth. I mean, the endless Pulp Fiction references and the awful attempts at Tarantino-esque dialogue. It’s frequently painful.

In fact, the only amusing thing might be seeing the stuntman standing in for Travolta (whose got to be the biggest secret agent in a while), but the editing doesn’t even allow that small pleasure.

From Paris with Love has to be Besson’s biggest failure (at least as a producer of simple action pictures). He didn’t write the script, which is apparently a big mistake, since Paris is all over the place. It tries to use buzz words–terrorist–to get a lot of effect and it’s pretty lame throughout. There’s a compelling train wreck factor to it, however.

Travolta’s a little more restrained in one of the more miscast roles I can remember (it’s clearly a role for someone like Jean Reno) and he’s so wrong for the role, one feels sympathy. Jonathan Rhys Meyers–playing an American with a questionable accent–is awful. I kept waiting for Travolta’s brash, rude secret agent to make a comment about Rhys Meyers’s silly mustache.

Morel’s direction is weak, a bland action movie style. It’d probably be impossible to shoot this script well.

Kasia Smutniak and Richard Durden probably give the only two acceptable performances.

It’s lousy.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Pierre Morel; screenplay by Adi Hasak, based on a story by Luc Besson; director of photography, Michel Abramowicz; edited by Frédéric Thoraval; music by David Buckley; production designer, Jacques Bufnoir; produced by Besson, India Osborne and Virginie Silla; released by EuropaCorp.

Starring John Travolta (Charlie Wax), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (James Reece), Kasia Smutniak (Caroline), Richard Durden (Ambassador Bennington), Yin Bing (M. Wong), Amber Rose Revah (Nichole), Eric Godon (Foreign Minister) and François Bredon (The Thug).


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Taken (2008, Pierre Morel)

Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have been writing ninety minute and change action movies for about seven years. It’s the only thing Kamen–who at one time was a Hollywood action screenwriter–is known for these days. Besson’s written a lot more of these mindless action feasts on his own and I don’t think it ever occurred to me one of them might some day turn out good. I didn’t even know the duo was behind Taken (Besson also produces). I just thought Liam Neeson’s career as a leading man had gotten too tenuous. But maybe only a leading man on the outs could make Taken, because even though it’s good, it’s still a subplot-free, ninety minute action movie. There’s no character development, nor the pretense it would have any part in such a narrative.

Taken‘s story is simple–Neeson’s an action guy (in this case a former CIA operative) who’s daughter gets kidnapped in Paris. He goes to get her back. He beats up a lot of people. Every frame of film is utilized towards that story–even tangential sequences reveal themselves to be part of the main plot. The first act of the film, which runs a half hour (lengthy for a ninety minute movie), is actually rather boring.

There’s a lot of (as it turns out) necessary setting and character stuff; these quieter moments are where Taken is chubby and off-point. Without them, however, the movie would only run an hour, which means it’d never get a theatrical release in the United States. Also, the viewer wouldn’t get to find out Maggie Grace is fine (nothing more) playing a teenager at twenty-five. He or she also wouldn’t get to suffer through Famke Janssen’s latest attempt at essaying a harpy. She fails once again, no surprise.

But immediately–with the kidnapping scene–Taken becomes captivating. It’s cheap and manipulative and it works. It’s short enough not to outstay its welcome and its occasional incredulousness can’t surmount Neeson’s fine performance.

Neeson makes Taken seem like it isn’t a disposable action movie. As goofy as the film gets in its scenes (not the action ones, the buddy scenes at the beginning), Neeson always makes them work. The whole movie depends on him and he doesn’t fail it.

Taken is very obviously not a mainstream American action movie, simply because of the plot’s clearness. The bad guys are not techo-terrorists, they’re just human traffickers. As the film revealed that plot point, I wondered if Taken was going to inform on that situation (on average, American men laugh when told of human trafficking; American soldiers in Iraq frequent victims of human trafficking), but it does not. Taken doesn’t really have room to educate, doesn’t have room to linger. It slices quickly and directly, just like Neeson’s character.

Morel’s direction is similarly efficient. The fight scenes are well-cut (especially given how tall Neeson is compared to his co-stars) and Taken–thanks to the combination of acting, directing and editing–never feels as though it’s trying to hide Neeson not actually being a trained martial artist. There’s also no sped up film, which is a pleasant surprise.

Taken succeeds on a higher level than it should because Besson and Kamen have constructed it to be self-evident. Just as there aren’t any subplots, there aren’t any themes or metaphors. It’s an action movie and a good one.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Pierre Morel; written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen; director of photography, Michel Abramowicz; edited by Frédéric Thoraval; music by Nathaniel Mechaly; production designer, Hugues Tissandier; produced by Besson, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam and India Osborne; released by EuropaCorp.

Starring Liam Neeson (Bryan), Maggie Grace (Kim), Famke Janssen (Lenore), Xander Berkeley (Stuart), Katie Cassidy (Amanda), Olivier Rabourdin (Jean Claude), Leland Orser (Sam), Jon Gries (Casey), David Warshofsky (Bernie), Holly Valance (Diva), Nathan Rippy (Victor), Camille Japy (Isabelle), Nicolas Giraud (Peter) and Gérard Watkins (Saint Clair).


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