Director: Oliver Megaton
Screenplay: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, Al Sapienza
Running Length: 118 minutes
Synopsis: Liam Neeson returns as ex-covert operative Bryan Mills, whose reconciliation with his ex-wife is tragically cut short when she is brutally murdered. Consumed with rage, and framed for the crime, he goes on the run to evade the relentless pursuit of the CIA, FBI and the police. For one last time, Mills must use his “particular set of skills,” to track down the real killers, exact his unique brand of justice, and protect the only thing that matters to him now – his daughter.
Review: Taken 3 is a perfect example of how Hollywood manages to run some movie franchises into the ground. When the first (and at that time, only) Taken movie was released, what was originally probably intended to be a B-list movie became an international hit, netting over US$200 million in box office, and establishing Liam Neeson’s second career as a bona-fide action star. The menacing voice message Bryan Miller leaves for his daughter’s captor is highly memorable even after seven years, and has become immortalized in pop culture. While spawning a sequel was an inevitability, this third (and seemingly final – thankfully) film in the franchise feels wholly unnecessary, and takes the franchise in a direction that betrays its origins: while the title is Taken 3, no one actually gets taken (except perhaps the audience, for a ride).
Playing out more like a knockoff of The Fugitive, this time around it’s Bryan’s ex-wife (a woefully underused Famke Janssen) who is murdered and Bryan conveniently being framed for her murder. This alone shifts the tone of the movie quite drastically versus the first two films – since no one is taken, there’s never that tension of Bryan doing the best he can to protect his family and free them from the grasp of the villains, which results in a far more subdued performance by Neeson. Neeson’s no-holds-barred takedown of the bad guys was what made the first Taken so eminently watchable, and outwitting the police in a largely blood-free manner for much of the movie makes Taken 3 feel like a geriatric, neutered outing when compared to its predecessors.
Gone too are the European locales, with the action centered in Los Angeles this time, yet the film still manages to whip out a Russian mobster villain on demand (and introduced in a terribly hackneyed flashback sequence), I guess to make the film feel just that bit more exotic. Although this is Oliver Megaton’s second Taken movie, the camerawork is just plain awful. Most of the action sequences are framed so poorly that it’s hard to discern the action, and Megaton’s questionable choice of employing shakycam movements even in non-action scenes, and a predilection for extreme closeups make viewing Taken 3 a potentially nauseating experience.
Unfortunately, in a film franchise not known for strength in plotting, Taken 3’s plot is the most convoluted and muddled of the three films, and by the final reel it seems that even the director has decided to no longer bother about the plot and just wrap it up at the earliest possible moment. I personally found the final reveals and the denouement to make no sense whatsoever, and would be appreciative of anyone who will be watching the movie to enlighten me on the finer workings of the plot (particularly “the warm bagel theory”). To add insult to injury, despite repeating ad nauseum in its marketing materials that Taken 3 is “one last time”, the film still chooses to leave a door open for a potential sequel. For the love of all that’s good and decent, dear Hollywood executives, please do not green light that project.
Rating: * (out of four stars)