Taken 3 is the Nail in the Coffin for the Series
Review by Daniel Rester
Don’t let the Taken series take any more of your time or money. Taken 3 just hit theaters and it’s just about as disappointingly terrible as the second entry was. I was a fan of the first Taken (2009), a lean and energetic action film carried by the always-watchable Liam Neeson and directed by Pierre Morel. But the second and third films find Neeson seeming to care less and director Olivier Megaton butchering the material and screen.
The third outing finds ex-government operative Bryan Mills (Neeson) back in LA and finally enjoying his retirement after taking down hundreds of bad guys in Europe. That is until his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is murdered and he is framed for it. This sends Mills on the run and Detective Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) after him in a plot that took some notes from the vastly superior The Fugitive (1993). Mills’ daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) shows up in the mix, as does Lenore’s husband Stuart (Dougray Scott) and an ex-KGB Spetsnaz operative named Oleg Malankov (Sam Spruell) – because it wouldn’t be a Taken film without a bad guy with a heavy accent.
Taken 3 is a hackneyed and unintentionally laughable mess from the first scenes onward. After seeing Mills holding a Panda stuffed animal and talking about bagels a bunch (hilarious), the character then dodges cops for much of the film’s runtime while trying to figure out the mystery behind Lenore’s death. The problem with the script is – aside from the continually bland dialogue and poor character development – that any smart audience member will know exactly where the film is heading within the first 20 minutes.
With the plot turns being completely predictable and obvious, it’s up to the filmmaking and action to make up for such shortcomings. But it doesn’t. Mills runs around a lot in the beginning but doesn’t even really kick much ass until an hour or so into the film. Isn’t the point of these movies to see Neeson take down a whole lot of bad guys? Instead Megaton treats us to more running and car smashing than fighting, which could have been okay in better hands.
While Megaton does display a couple of cool car wrecks and swift kills, he fumbles in directing for the most part – just like with the second film. I don’t recall a single still shot in Taken 3. Megaton mostly favors close-up shaky camerawork instead, which can work well in small doses but comes across as aggravating when constantly used. What’s worse is that the editing is so quick and chopped up that barely any of the framing or movement comes across as coherent. Do we really need to cut seven or so times in just showing a man jumping a short distance from a rooftop to a dumpster? The first Taken admittedly had a kinetic style, but one could at least tell what was going on.
Neeson and the others do what they can. The lead knows how to add dramatic weight even to blah material, and he and Grace still have good chemistry as father and daughter; they even share one strong scene involving a bathroom. Whitaker’s talent is wasted in a part he could do in his sleep; his character mostly stares and plays around with a chess piece while trying to crack the case. The acting here is serviceable but not necessarily praise-worthy.
The original Taken maintained some grit and realism while offering up a large dose of exciting action. Now Bryan Mills can exit a car while it’s rolling down a mountain and walk away without any pain. As if moments like that — and the many other illogical scenes — weren’t ridiculous enough, it’s all put together in a headache-inducing manner. Hopefully Neeson will move on to better things and not return to this series.
My Score: 1 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: D).
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief strong language).
Runtime: 1 hour and 49 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: January 9th, 2014.