Taken 3 (or TAK3N, as some of the horrible marketing for this film would have you call it) is a special kind of fun. The type of fun that comes from laughing at the ludicrous plot, the camera work, the editing, the dialogue and so on. Neeson had previously stated he would not return to this series unless this time nobody was taken; a statement most would see as the final nail in the coffin for a franchise called Taken! Nope.
As most would agree, the original Taken had a lot of positives. It was typical action fare with a simple and predictable plot but it was executed well by those involved and we forgave a few missteps for what was a memorable transformation from Liam Neeson into an action hero. It got in, it got out and we enjoyed the experience. It led to a number of copycat films in the following years, including Neeson himself trying to repeat the trick in 2011’s Unknown (skip it) and of course the sequel itself Taken 2 (skip it), which saw Neeson’s character Bryan Mills back to direct his daughter to save him and his ex-wife after they are taken. None of those copycats did it as well as the original 2008 film but rather than let it die, here we go again.
This time, Mills’ ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is murdered. Do we care? No but Mills is angry and that is something we find entertaining. She was killed by some random Russians who we also do not care about because they have no connection with the bad guys from the other films. We know there is no connection because at one point, Mills asks what he is dealing with in the antagonist “Malenkov”. This leads to a flashback with some amateurish shots of him slitting throats in what we are told is Afghanistan in some vain attempt to force us to care or to feel threatened by this laughably bad character: the final
So the mother of his daughter is dead and somehow the bad guys have the police believing it was Mills. Then a series of events as follows: exposition dialogue, fight, run, repeat. All fights and chases are filmed exceptionally bad and edited worse. The camera is close enough and shaky enough that we are supposed to assume it is Neeson running or jumping when it obviously was not. Then these shots are cut to split seconds as the director tries to keep a momentum going.
Then there is Forest Whitaker. Newcomer to the series, he plays the lead detective investigating the murder of Mills’ ex-wife. We are expected to buy him as an intelligent and intuitive detective, just shy of the intelligence shown by Mills. He plays with some arbitrary chess piece in an attempt to make him seem intellectual. The problem is, Mills is not actually doing anything that ingenious but the rest of the police force are just too stupid to keep up. In one scene, Mills is apparently trapped in a garage only to slide under the truck that is parked there and into a drainpipe. The police are completely stumped by this. Where could he have gone? Wait, everybody, Whitaker’s here. Wait, he wants to move the truck? Oh, the drainpipe, of course! Why didn’t we think of that? Forest, you’re so clever!
Another scene sees Mills’ drive his car into a lift shaft as he evades the police. He survives the ten storey drop inside the car and we see his hand grab for the door and try to open it. Flames appear around him and the door is jammed against the side of the shaft and there is nowhere he can go. We hear the struggle in his voice as he tried to force his way out. This is tense. There is no way Mills will get out of this one. Cut! Next scene, Mills is making a phone call. Did I blink? Did I miss something there? What just happened? Hello?
My last example, I promise: another scene sees Mills’ car shunted off the edge of a cliff. It tumbles a half dozen times, then a count to five and then boom, explosion for no apparent reason. Mills survives though as he arrogantly explains for no reason at all to an enemy later on. The writer or the director or someone has finally decided to try and explain how he escaped one of these things; actually no, not really. We see a flashback of the car tumbling but shot from a different angle where Mills somehow ends up on the hill walking back to the road. Not a scratch on him and no explanation as to how he managed to slide his 62 year old self out from that car as it flipped over and down the hillside.
Three final problems with this film:
- Maggie Grace is 31 years old and still goes to high school and gets teddy bears from Dad.
- Liam Neeson’s American accent is just not good: something even joked about by one of the characters.
- Dougray Scott plays the same character as Xander Berkley did in the original. Only they look nothing like each other and their characters are polar opposites.
The strapline for this film is “it ends here”. Please, please, please let it be true. I laughed at this film from time to time but really it was laughing at me for paying to see it. Do not make the same mistake I did.
Rating: SKIP IT