In the first Taken, his daughter was taken.
In the second Taken, his wife was taken.
In the third Taken, your money will be taken.
Welcome to yet another Liam Neeson cash grab, featuring a bunch of people who first piss Liam Neeson off, then frame him for something he didn’t do, then get punched in the face repeatedly.
We’ve seen this plot unfold already in two Taken films and in Non Stop (which was basically Taken in a plane). Megaton and his writers make zero effort to bring anything new to the table – they know that the formula worked in the second movie and would still generate a lot of cash even the third time. Everything remains the same, the stakes are not three times higher, or the action isn’t three times more powerful. There is only one major increment – the stupidity is three times stupider.
The film opens with the same cringe inducing establishing shots of Bryan Mills (Neeson) being the best dad in the world, craving for love from his daughter (Maggie Grace) and still having a ton of affection for his ex wife (Famke Janssen). Then we get cringe inducing establishing shots of Mills being set up by an unknown entity whom Mills will naturally find. This is followed by the usual run and gun style action told through cringe inducing establishing shots of the city scape – the services of which are rendered this time by Los Angeles. One presumes LA was used because this time the filmmakers didn’t even want to bother going to a European country.
Also from LA are the set of baddies – which includes Sam Spurell as Malankov, the stock shady Russian goon with tattoos. The central villain in the film is hidden for a laughably long period of time, and the twist is presented to us in a manner which only expects the audience members to stay below the age of five and express shock.
When you’re sitting in the theater noticing the way the film’s technicalities, it only means neither the story is interesting nor the filmmaking, and Taken 3 is pretty awful on both counts. What worked in the first Taken was the lean and mean, stripped down attitude and execution of the film. There were no bombastic chase sequences, and the stunts were quick and fast, staying within the dark, which gave Mills’ character a suave Batman like vibe. Things sort of fell apart in the second film when Mills began throwing bombs all over the city. This time the action is painfully generic, loud, overblown and ultimately underwhelming. Even the fight sequences are shot with a drunk camera that stays just enough still to make you realize Neeson is just acting as an action hero, rather than being one.
No one holds back – it’s like everyone decided to turn Mills into a lovechild of Bourne and John McClane. Mills does everything from outrunning cops, outgunning villains, and driving a porche into a plane to stop it from taking off. If that’s your idea of entertainment well and good, but there’s not a lick of humor in the film – at least the intentional kind. Plus if you’re going to show us an action hero repeatedly pummeling people and escaping a spray of bullets from Russian automatic machine guns, there has to be a sense of danger and adventure to it. Yet, every stunt in Taken 3 seems sterile, as if Mills is just going through the motions, as are the audience, knowing that even if he gets hit, Mills is going to get up, escape and kick the goon’s heinie.
It does not help that there’s Forest Whitaker playing the most over the top cop to have graced cinema screens lately. He carries a chess board Knight, and solves the central case in the movie by smelling a packet of bagels. It doesn’t really get stupider than that. Oh but it does, in the form of Dougray Scott who spends the majority of the movie doing an embarrassingly terrible Russian-Irish-American accent, and mugging for his paycheck, clearly still upset about not taking on the offer of playing Wolverine fifteen years ago.
(First published in Mid Day)