Taken 3 takes the franchise past the point of absurdity - purely for the sake of selling a third series installment.
In Taken 3 former government operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is forced to once again puts his "particular set of skills" to use - after his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), is murdered in his home by mysterious assailants. Framed for Lenore's death, and uninterested in wasting precious time explaining the situation to police officers, Mills goes underground and on the run - believing that the he stands the best chance of protecting his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), as well as bringing his ex-wife's true killer to justice.
With the help of his golfing (read: ex-operative) buddies, Mills traverses the backstreets of Los Angeles in search for answers - and to ensure that Kim is not caught in the forthcoming crossfire. Unfortunately, in addition to ruthless mobsters, a clever and obsessive LAPD Inspector, Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), also remains close on Mills' tail - armed with a massive police manhunt. As the cops and criminals nip at his heels, Mills is must improvise with limited resources, and put everything on the line, if he wants to make sure that Kim isn't "taken" (once and for all).
The original Taken, from director Pierre Morel, was a clever (and straightforward) action-thriller - rooted in a biting premise: sex traffickers unknowingly kidnap the daughter of a brutal but cool-headed ex-special agent. The subsequent experience delivered non-stop action while also managing to serve-up a compelling portrait of its central character - an unrepentant killer but loving father that would (and could) cross the world to save his daughter. The followup, directed by Olivier Megaton, saw Mills' ex-wife "taken" as revenge for his brutal actions in the first film and nearly stretched the core concept to the breaking point (read our Taken 2 review). Sadly, Megaton's Taken 3 takes the franchise past the point of absurdity - purely for the sake of selling a third series installment.
Still, while Hollywood churns out plenty of shallow franchise installments each year, the most disappointing aspect of Taken 3 isn't that it's a shameless cash grab, it's that Megaton's latest (and hopefully last) Taken movie is painfully short on inspired action. While the Taken 2 plot was mostly a rehash of the first movie, the sequel managed to include enough high-octane thrills and brawls to balance out any eye-rolling melodrama or underwhelming action sequences - at least for moviegoers who were open to some harmless theater escapism. This round, besides brand recognition, there's no reason for Taken 3 to exist: it's less exciting, less intelligent, and less inventive than its predecessors while outright convoluting and undermining established series plot elements.
In an effort to avoid relying on someone being "taken" (read: abducted) in the third Taken movie, writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen penned a chapter in the life of Bryan Mills that is almost entirely removed from the interconnected narrative of past films while at the same time failing to reveal new layers for the central characters (and their performers) to explore. For all of its faults, one of the more intriguing ideas presented in Taken 2 was the setup that a former vengeful dad (Mills) was being tormented by similarly vengeful parents (grieving fathers of the sex trafficking Albanians that Mills killed in Taken). As a result, while the sequel never came close to the bar set by its predecessor, it did allow room for interesting juxtaposition - juxtaposition that forced Mills to reflect on the effects of his actions.
Conversely, Taken 3 is a hollow revenge story that borrows heavily from far superior genre installments (especially The Fugitive) without any substantial connection to previous events - in spite of the fact that Taken 2 openly left room for further retribution from the Albanians. Forest Whitaker is a welcome addition to the cast but the Academy Award-winning talent shares precious little screen time with Neeson - meaning that the film's two strongest players aren't afforded enough time to develop impactful drama or reflective character moments. Worst of all, Megaton's attempt to up the action ante turns Mills into a thoughtless wrecking ball (much like Bruce Willis in the opening moments of A Good Day to Die Hard) - leaving entirely innocent bystanders damaged (and possibly dead) throughout a reckless campaign to protect his loved ones.
That said, even though story and characters are both underserved, certain fans of the franchise will still be tempted to see Taken 3 - if for no other reason than to see Neeson brawl with criminals (and cops) onscreen. Yet, more than either proceeding film, the latest chapter relies heavily on choppy footage and fight choreography, as well as bland automobile carnage to meet its action quota - with a waterboarding scene peppered in to remind moviegoers that Mills is still a brutish antihero in place of nuanced drama.
In venturing away from the franchise's "taken" gimmick, the Taken 3 filmmakers lost sight of nearly everything that made the first film a memorable action-thriller - most notably watching Mills navigate the line between good guy and merciless killing machine. What's left is a generic chase movie that, if it wasn't attached to the Taken brand, would have been a completely forgettable entry in Neeson's growing list of aging-action hero filmography (Non-Stop and Unknown, among others). Most of the necessary pieces are present, and Mills is still disturbingly calm in the face of danger, but every aspect of Taken 3 (from the performances, the story, and the action) is uninspired - paling in comparison to Morel's Taken and countless superior quality films that inspired the franchise. It's been said before but not every great movie can maintain an equally great movie franchise.
Taken 3 runs 109 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief strong language.
Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check back soon for our Taken 3 episode of the SR Underground podcast.
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