Robert Mark Kamen

Robert Mark Kamen

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Taken 3 Review


As with the first two films in this dumb but bombastically watchable franchise, writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen seemingly put no effort into writing a script that can even remotely hold water. This is such a boneheaded story that it boggles the mind, eliciting laughter every time it tries to show some emotion or menace. But watching Liam Neeson charge around on a personal mission, cleaning up the criminal underworld in the process, is still rather good fun.

Back home in Los Angeles, former super-spy Bryan (Neeson) is trying to re-bond with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) while waiting for his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) to leave her sweaty but wealthy husband Stuart (Dougray Scott) and come back to him. But this dream is cut short in a twisted act of violence that leaves Bryan as the prime suspect. With Inspector Franck (Forest Whitaker) on his tail, Bryan traverses the city trying to unknot the mystery and find out who the real villain is, so he can clear his name and protect his family. With the help of an old pal (Leland Orser), Bryan manages to taunt and elude the cops at every turn while tracking down the nasty Russian mafioso Malankov (Sam Spruell). But something is clearly not right here.

Instead of centring on one far-fetched kidnapping, pretty much every character in the story gets "taken" at some point in the movie. The film benefits from this break in the formula, creating a relentless pursuit that runs right through the story. So even if the details never remotely ring true, and even if most scenes feel badly contrived, it's thoroughly entertaining to watch Neeson's stand-in stuntman leap across backyard fences or drive like a maniac on the freeway, causing mass carnage in his wake. Sadly, director Olivier Megaton directs and edits the film by chopping scenes into splinters, then reassembling them so they make no sense at all. It's loud and fast and incomprehensible.

Continue reading: Taken 3 Review

Taken 2 Review


There wasn't really anywhere for the story to go after 2008's surprise hit Taken, and this movie quickly proves that. Not only does it have that same appalling moral vacuum at the centre (it doesn't matter how many irrelevant people you torture and kill to rescue your loved one), but the plot becomes increasingly absurd as it progresses. So the only genuine response is weary laughter.

The action picks up shortly after Bryan (Neeson) has recovered from his ordeal in Paris. His daughter Kim (Grace) seems to have forgotten it completely, and soon she and her mother Lenore (Janssen), Bryan's ex, jet off to Istanbul to join him after he finishes a business meeting. But they don't know that the family of the Albanian thugs Bryan killed in France have followed him to Turkey intent on vengeance. They soon grab Bryan and Lenore, so Bryan calls Kim on a secret mobile device and coaches her on how to rescue them. Of course, it gets increasingly messy as the hours tick by.

Perfectly named director Megaton (Colombiana) never bothers to make any sense out of the story, merely charging into each scene with guns blazing and grenades exploding, while suggesting that only unshaven Albanian-looking men get killed in the process. Well, all of them, to be exact. He also delights in presenting shameless stereotypes of Muslims who take their run-down lifestyle with them wherever they go. Meanwhile, the Yanks are efficient and unruffled, speaking in cliched slogans. Neeson sleepwalks through the film, shifting into action mode or hitting the dramatic notes where necessary. Jansson is actually asleep (or unconscious) most of the time. While Grace has the most fun in a series of insane action set-pieces.

Continue reading: Taken 2 Review

Colombiana Review

This preposterously overwrought revenge thriller is entertaining simply because it so rarely pauses for breath. It makes virtually no sense if you think about it, and the writing and direction are mostly incoherent. But it's also guilty good fun.

In Colombia, feisty 9-year-old Cataleya (Stenberg) witnesses her parents' massacre of by Marco (Molla), henchman the drug kingpin Luis (Benites). Years layer (now Saldana) she's in Chicago, where she's been raised by her uncle (Curtis) to be a stealthy assassin. Now she's trying to draw Marco and Luis out of protective CIA custody by leaving clues at each murder scene. And it seems to be working. With an FBI agent (James) on her trail and a boyfriend (Vartan) who knows nothing, she's playing a dangerous game.

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Taken Review

Of all the men you would expect to tear through Europe to save his daughter, leaving a trail of dead like Jonestown in his wake, Liam Neeson would be relatively low on the list, coming in somewhere between Chevy Chase and Zero Mostel. Neeson has always been known for playing men of impassioned rhetoric, guys whose tongues are more powerful than their physical prowess. So, watching the man who played Alfred Kinsey, Jean Valjean, and Michael Collins take two large nails and slam them into a another man's thighs before connecting jumper cables to said nails might leave a viewer understandably flabbergasted.

This is just one of the actions taken by Bryan Mills (Neeson) when he receives a call from his daughter (Maggie Grace) as she is being kidnapped by Albanian sex-traffickers while on vacation in France. An ex-CIA man, Mills uses a few decades worth of weapons knowledge, intelligence training, and fighting styles to basically purge France of any and all Albanian abducters to find his sugarplum and return her to the loving arms of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and her absurdly rich second husband (Xander Berkeley).

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Transporter 3 Review

Remember the Star Trek films theory? You know, the argument that says every even-numbered entry (two, four, six, so on) in the series was great, while every odd numbered movie was mediocre to awful? Well, the Transporter franchise could soon take the place of everyone's favorite serious science fiction romp, except in this case, the conflicting criticisms would be "tolerable" and "oh no, not again." You'd figure that with this third journey into Jason Statham's six pack, we'd have something akin to a guilty pleasure. Instead, all we're offered is a director named "Olivier Megaton," and sadly, both his name and his effort is a dud.

After retiring to an isolated life in France, driver for hire Frank Martin (Statham) believes his transporting days are over. But when a man he suggested as a replacement literally winds up in his living room, expensive sports car and all, our sullen hero finds himself back behind the wheel. His mission this time around? Deliver a package to the Ukraine, in time to stop a high ranking government official from cancelling a contract with some American energy interests. Seems the U.S. wants to use the former Soviet Union as a toxic waste dumping ground, and a concerned cabinet minister wants no part of the deal. Of course, when a Western thug (Robert Knepper) kidnaps his daughter Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) and holds her hostage, it's up to Martin to step in and save the day.

Continue reading: Transporter 3 Review

Taps Review

Thank goodness that Timothy Hutton didn't have the career of, let's say, Sean Penn or Tom Cruise. It would have been tough to stomach years of fragile acting, the kind that some might label "sensitive," but soon becomes annoying. It's a good thing the same semi-anonymous fate didn't befall Penn or Cruise (before he apparently lost his mind). Both of them have sizeable roles in Taps, a solid 1981 drama featuring then-recent Academy Award winner Hutton. Cruise and Penn, both relatively unknown at the time, provide Taps with the soul-searching gravity that propels it beyond hunks-with-guns fare.

Hutton plays Brian, a loyal student and rising senior at a prestigious military school. With the school on the verge of closing, Brian and his classmates bear arms so the school remains open. Things start off grandly, with the boys holding off the state police and standing for their principles. As the days pass and the stakes get higher, the students (some of whom aren't in their teens) unravel. Are they doing the right thing or are they sticking with a lost cause?

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Bandidas Review

In the history of really silly wigs, Dwight Yoakam's long, crimped black hair in Bandidas has gone and snuck its way into the top ten. It's part of the silliness of the film that stops it from being a truly terrible movie. That being said, there's no other compliments I can ratchet out for this sucker.

It's the old west and things aren't well. Tyler Jackson (Yoakam) has used a six-shooter to take over much of the land in Mexico, and wants to use all of this to make connections and money through big time land developers. He makes a mistake when he shoots the father of Maria (Penélope Cruz) and poisons the wealthy father of Sara (Selma Hayek). After some squabbling over class, they decide to pair up as bank robbers and steal all of Jackson's money, getting tips from retired bank robber Bill Buck (Sam Shepard, why?). They eventually pair with a forensic psychologist (Steve Zahn) who starts falling for both the girls as they plan to breach Jackson's big vault.

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The Transporter 2 Review

Michael Bay, the reigning champ of crappy action films, once said, "I make movies for teenage boys. Oh, dear, what a crime." So it is with The Transporter 2, an inoffensive, over-the-top action flick composed of wild car chases and staggering improbabilities that are sure to delight 13-year-old boys everywhere -- and no one else.

The reason for this is simple. Unlike the rest of us, 13-year-old boys haven't yet developed an immunity to mindless spectacle. They haven't been around long enough to realize it's their job as moviegoers to cluck and fuss every time a director tries to pull one over on the audience. Instead of feeling cheated when implausible scenarios pile up and ridiculous actions beget even more ridiculous reactions, 13-year-old boys hoot in approval. The explosions, the fights, the hot chicks, that's enough for them. It's a good thing, too, because that's all The Transporter 2 has.

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The Punisher (1989) Review

One of cinema's worst duds ever, Dolph Lundgren is actually at his mediocre best here as the Marvel Comics star -- a former policeman turned vigilante who is out to avenge the death of his wife and child. Things go from stupid to completely asinine when the Punisher decides to take on the local Japanese Yakuza mobsters, who have kidnapped the children of his usual enemies, the Italian mafia. Can't we all just get along? Not if it means sitting through this film, marred by cheeseball sets and special effects, lame fight sequences, and some of the worst acting ever to disgrace the screen. Director Mark Goldblatt returned to editing after this bomb.

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Kiss of the Dragon Review

Wham, bam, thank you ma'am! Jet Li has finally returned to prime ass-kicking form in his latest kung fu extravaganza Kiss of the Dragon.

Jet Li -- one of the most popular stars in Asia rivaling Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-Fat -- has had an impressive string of over 25 films under his belt in his two decades of kung fu prowess and strong acting turns. But after two dismal attempts at winning over American audiences with a small villain role in Lethal Weapon 4 and the horrendous Joel Silver monstrosity Romeo Must Die, it was looking pretty grim for this mighty warrior. So, Li read the e-mails from his fans, taking their compliments and complaints via his web site.

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The Transporter Review

With the goofiest title of the year so far - The Transporter is a prime example of pure and unadulterated popcorn trash cinema.

The plot of The Transporter never extends beyond the borders of a video game story. Basically, if you need something - or someone - transported from one place to another, you drop a call to Ex-Special Forces operator Frank Martin (Jason Statham) and his "tricked-out" BMW to deliver the goods. But, remember - before you hire Mr. Frank for one of your mysterious and sometimes dangerous tasks - you must remember his three golden rules.

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Robert Mark Kamen

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