When ‘Taken’ debuted and a grizzled Liam Neeson mass-murdered his way into all of our hearts, there was undeniably something special about that particular slice of Eurotrash. Now six years have gone by, Neeson’s action roles are ubiquitous, and a movie as lazily ill-conceived as ‘Taken 3’ is about as welcome as a kick to the nuts from a retired government operative. ‘Taken 2’ may have been a bad movie, but at least it was insane enough in its awfulness to offer audiences a little fun. ‘Taken 3’, on the other hand, isn’t just bad. It’s incompetent.
The threequel kicks off with some hysterically cornball sequences involving Liam Neeson gifting a giant stuffed panda to his daughter (Maggie Grace) and making doe eyes with his recently remarried ex-wife (Famke Janssen). It’s horrible, but the kind of horrible that will get laughs out of fans of the series since they know this greeting card swill is there purely to contrast with the endless stream of growling and ass-kickery to come shortly. Unfortunately, those fleeting moments of camp end up being some of the most entertaining parts of the entire movie. As soon as the plot is set into motion, it’s clear that screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have absolutely no idea how to keep this franchise alive. Even worse, spectacularly surnamed director Olivier Megaton seems to have forgotten how to stage a coherent action scene.
Despite what the title suggests, no one gets taken this time. (Except perhaps the audience. Zing! Sorry.) Instead, Besson and Kamen must have seen a copy of ‘The Fugitive’ on the wall that they were banging their heads against while writing and said, “Screw it, we’ll just do that.” So, after a stop at the bagel store, Bryan Mills (Neeson) arrives at his ex-wife’s house to find her dead. Then the cops burst in. I think there’s a chase at this point, but the mixture of nauseating shaky-cam and continuity-free editing made it hard to tell what’s going on.
After that, Mills is a man on the run. The cop assigned to the case is played by Forest Whitaker, so obviously that means he’s a good guy unlikely to assume that the protagonist of two successful movies could possibly be wrong. (Mills killed at least 30% of the evil people in Europe by my count). Whitaker’s character figures out that Mills is innocent because of the bagels and because Besson and Kamen just really don’t care about anything this time. Then a bunch of other stuff happens. Whatever.
It’s hard to even work up the energy to say anything about ‘Taken 3’, simply because everyone involved in the movie was clearly operating on autopilot. The script is possibly the weakest excuse for a movie to ever be farted out of Besson’s brain, and considering the lows between his highs, that’s really saying something. There’s nothing approaching drama, tension or characterization here. Even the ludicrous logic gaps aren’t silly enough to be accidentally funny.
Then, whenever enough strained narrative pieces fall into place for an action scene, Megaton seems to go out of his way to ensure that the sequence is too sloppy to comprehend. The evocative dark and seedy streets of Europe at night have been replaced by dull daytime shoots in suburban Los Angeles to ensure that everyone on the crew got home in time for dinner. Even Neeson seems to have put less than no effort into his performance. The editors constantly have to awkwardly cut around his refusal to run, and he doesn’t even bother to hide his Irish accent much of the time. This movie is embarrassing.
Look, ‘Taken 3’ was never exactly going to be a masterpiece, but it could have at least been adequate. All the filmmakers needed to do was set Neeson loose on the streets of Europe with some sex traffickers to beat up. That’s not hard. Everyone involved managed to serve up that bare minimum of effort for a sequel once before. Not so this time. This threequel is a paycheck for everyone involved, and clearly the first production meeting consisted of two sentences: “Who cares what it is? Let’s just make something.”
The filmmakers even neutered the hard-R style that’s been a selling point of the series from the beginning to a PG-13. It’s an insult to audiences for a team of filmmakers who have proven that they know what they’re doing to deliver such a pitiful excuse for a movie. ‘Taken 3’ deserves to bomb, and I hope it does. This sequel is a scam cruising by purely on the franchise name. Don’t be fooled. Run.