Weekend Forecast for January 9-11, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
January 9, 2015
It's the end of an era this weekend, as the film series that revitalized a career and an entire month of the release schedule – in a thoroughly ridiculous fashion – comes to a close.
Seven whole years ago, Taken was just a bit of throwaway action film in the depths of the winter slate, a bit of castoff from the Luc Besson film factory that could have very well been one of those “wait, that actor did *what*? Guess he was desperate” direct-to-video cash grabs. Instead, thanks in large part to one particular and now oft-parodied monologue, as well as Liam Neeson's late-career gravitas, it had a surprisingly strong opening weekend of $24 million ... and then ran...
And ran and ran and ran all the way to $145 million domestic, as notable for its total as the fact that it was a rare reappearance of old-school legs (“Gather 'round kids, as I tell you of a time when films were expected to stay in wide release for more than six weekends...”). And like Die Hard before it, it helped to spawn an entire new subgenre. Instead of “Die Hard on a ____”, we had “Taken with a ____”, where a series of Very Old Men Who Can Kick Your Ass (often Neeson himself!) kicked your ass in a variety of situations. Ironically enough, Bruce Willis now qualifies as one of those Very Old Men.
Taken 2 got the “promotion” to October and basically matched the production of the first film, when it certainly could have fallen to Earth as people reconsidered whether they really liked this style of film or not. A visibly embarrassed Neeson vowed that there wouldn't be a Taken 3 – not in so many words, but called a trilogy “bad parenting” – but here we are with it back in its original release slot. Perhaps honoring that notion that a third film about an abducted daughter would be a bit silly, Taken 3 has Neeson coming home to find his wife murdered (Famke Janssen: “I still get my full rate, right?”) and himself framed for it. Obviously it's one of his many, many, many enemies to blame for this, but while he's trying to figure that out, he has to survive on the run from the police department and many other scary acronymed agencies, preferably without killing them, since they're ostensibly on the same side as him.
Aside from perhaps making a bit more sense plot-wise, it opens up a lot more opportunity for mayhem and close-quarters ass-kicking for its aging star (it's at this point I'm reminded that Death Wish got to five films), as everyone becomes a target/assailant. We're still left with the faint ridiculousness of the now-sexagenarian Neeson besting all comers, but if Non-Stop or Unknown or The Grey didn't use up his mojo, I can't see how Taken 3 will break the spell. However, the series does seem to be making the pertinent decision to not push things too far by promising a conclusion to things. I'd look for an opening weekend of about $28 million and perhaps some closure on this genre.