Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Premise: Liam Neeson returns as ex-government operative Bryan Mills. In this installment, Mills is framed for murdering his ex-wife. He goes on the run from the law while trying to discover the truth and clear his name.
What Works: 2009’s Taken was a surprisingly good action movie from writer and producer Luc Besson. Consistent with Besson’s regular output of shoot-‘em-up action pictures, the original Taken had a relentless drive and a gritty style and it featured Liam Neeson in what would be the first of many hard action roles. Taken 2 was released in 2012 and it was a disappointing follow up that treated audiences to a stupid story told through incoherent action. Taken 3 generally rectifies the problems of the second film. Although it is nowhere near as satisfying as the first picture, Taken 3 is a competently made action picture. This film is a murder mystery in the mold of films like The Fugitive and of the three Taken pictures the story of this installment is the most interesting of the series. There are several forces at play in Taken 3, including the requisite Eastern European gangsters, but the motives of the villains aren’t transparent and their real agenda is revealed gradually.
What Doesn’t: Taken 3 is an improvement from the second film but it still suffers from many of the same flaws. The Taken sequels were directed by Olivier Megaton and he tends to overdo the action sequences. The chases and shootouts are documented with unusual camera angles and the shots are edited together so frantically that it is hard to follow the action. In Taken 3 Megaton corrects the errors of the previous film but he overcompensates and the action is frequently start and stop; the film does not have the momentum of the first picture and none of the action scenes top anything in the first two installments. As an action picture and a sequel, that is the key flaw of Taken 3. There is nothing in this picture that is surprising or that raises the series to the next level. It’s just more of the same. Part of the guilty pleasure of the first Taken was watching Bryan Mills beat up, shoot, and torture bad guys who were engaged in human trafficking. That, and his parental crusade to rescue his daughter, gave the movie a righteous charge that made the violence satisfying. In Taken 3, Mills is on the run from authorities and a lot of the action scenes involve Mills beating up policemen and causing massive traffic accidents that almost certainly result in civilian casualties. This has been a popular and unfortunate trend in a lot of recent action movies such as Fast & Furious 6 and Need for Speed. This kind of thing isn’t new; video games like the Grand Theft Auto series are based around wanton destruction. But in Taken 3 the pointlessness of it all cheapens the heroism of the main character and degrades the central appeal of the movie. With this being the third film in the series, the moviemakers need to make Mills vulnerable. At this point he is a superhero and the police never stand a chance. Their efforts to arrest him are led by a detective played by Forest Whitaker and he has to be one of the worst police detectives in the history of action movies. Aside from being unable to put together a pretty obvious setup, he eats evidence found at the crime scene. Mills also acts irrationally. Not long into the movie he finds a video recording of his ex-wife getting snatched by someone in a van. That video should clear him but instead of using it to send law enforcement in the right direction he disrupts their investigation and goes on a killing spree, playing right into the hands of the film’s central villain and endangering his daughter in the process. Returning as Mills’ daughter, Maggie Grace is wasted in Taken 3. The story opens with her unexpectedly pregnant but instead of doing anything interesting with this plot development, it comes across as an excuse to keep her out of the action.
Bottom Line: No one goes to a Liam Neeson or Luc Besson shoot-‘em-up for the plot. Taken 3 is no better or worse than the movies Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal were making in the 1990s and so it is satisfying as a dumb action movie.
Episode: #528 (February 8, 2015)