Primed and ready to score a big opening weekend, Taken 3 (or Tak3n) follows the trend of sequels where the producers realize their initial premise has a short lifespan (ie: The Hangover). Since it would prove tiring to have a character being kidnapped in every sequel, the makers of Taken 3 have elected to rehash The Fugitive as their central narrative. So Taken 3 follows Liam Neeson’s protagonist Bryan Mills (or Dr. Richard Kimble redux), being accused for murdering his (ex) wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). Hiding from federal agents led by Sam Gerard….err, Franck Dotzler (Forrest Whittaker), Mills seeks to hide low while trying to find out who actually killed Lenore. So, yeah, the exact same plot as The Fugitive.
It’s hard to imagine Taken 3 being more of an incomprehensible mess than Taken 2, but it manages to pull off that feat. How Taken 3 attempts to retain some of its Taken-ness is through Mills’ annual barbeque with the guys, lens flares that have no purpose in the scene other than to obstruct and deflate the impact of what’s going on (thanks Taken 2), as well as showing Mills’ daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace) in more peril. Except this time, she’s under duress less by terrorists but an unexpected pregnancy. Other than that, the film becomes a completely separate entity in itself, moving from Albanian terrorists to Russian mobsters, from a foreign setting to Los Angeles. The first act ends quickly as Mills discovers Lenore dead in his apartment. He’s immediately greeted by cops who have arrived via an anonymous tip. Quickly taking out both cops, Mills becomes a man on the run.
The action scene that follows is one of the most incoherent, choppy, horribly filmed chase scenes I’ve seen since Jason Statham used a kid’s bike to catch up to a sports car in Transporter 3. If you think I’m wrong, try to draw a line mapping out where and how Bryan Mills, or any other character in the scene, got from point A to point B. Actually try to discern the distance between cars, or how far Neeson had to run to jump a fence, or how he actually manages to disarm one of his pursuers. I guarantee you, you won’t be able to. This is the kind of garbage that passes for a kinetic chase scene, or at least what director Olivier Megaton thinks will excite you. There is not a single long shot to establish space, and not a single action that isn’t shown in at least five different cuts lasting maybe half a second each. And it’s not just this one. Every action scene is filmed this way. I don’t know about you, but if I can’t see what is supposed to make me on the edge of my seat, I am going to get very bored, and that is how I felt during every fight or chase sequence in this film.
What makes this even more disappointing is that Liam Neeson has proven time again in other films, including Taken, that he is capable of performing awesome stunts or making hand to hand combat look bad ass. The man can fight, at least in a choreographed sense. So it’s baffling to me why action is being filmed in a way where it is blatantly obvious that the punch Neeson just threw misses its target by about 3 feet, and the quick cut with “punch” sound are only there to make you assume that there was contact. And speaking of baffling, I do acknowledge that Bryan Mills has a set of exhausted-by-now skills, which give him an edge over his enemies. This allows audiences to suspend disbelief since we can always use the adage, “because it’s Liam Neeson” to explain away any implausibility. But when you see him trapped in a really bad car wreck that ends in an explosion seconds later, then see him perfectly fine in the next shot watching the action from a mile away not once but three times, it’s no longer a question of implausibility but that this guy is just on never-ending God mode. Unlimited weapons, no reload, and pure invincibility.
I’m not going to get too much into reviewing the plot because let’s face it, we just want to see Liam Neeson beat up people. But I have to make note that the screenplay doesn’t even try to make the plot seem logical. Any beat cop who had ever seen a bad episode of NCIS would have been able to see that the evidence doesn’t add up and that Bryan Mills is clearly being framed. Instead, we have Samuel Gerard, err…Franck Dotzler eating bagels trying to discern if their freshness coincides with the time frame of the murder. Gerard…err, Dotzler is solely dedicated to bringing Mills in, regardless of whether or not he thinks he has the right man. He’s also the least stupid cop on the force. I sensed that the filmmakers actually have a grudge against law enforcement because these agents set a new standard for movie stupidity. There’s even a third act plot twist that reveals the true villain of the piece – which was obvious within five minutes of the opening credits – where you will realize that this villain severely over complicated the matter and actually made it worse for himself.
It’s easy to see why the original Taken was such a hit. It allowed all of us to gleefully watch an ordinary American beat the hell out of foreign criminals settling into welcoming countries and abusing their system (insert sociology discussion here), but most important, it introduced us to the awesomeness that is Liam Neeson the action star. That movie had flaws, particularly in the way plot convenience got its hero, Bryan Mills, out of situations more so than his set of acquired skills. But it was a slick and very fun production. Taken 2 was a rehash of its predecessor with crappier fight scenes and characters making stupid decisions. To call it a misfire is an understatement. Taken 2 really made me question Bryan Mills’ intelligence, particularly the scenes where he instructs his daughter to throw grenades out a window to determine his position from the hotel. I was hoping Taken 3 would not have similarly idiotic scenes. And then Bryan Mills tries to save his daughter by driving straight into and crashing the plane she’s being held hostage on…..
DIRECTOR: Olivier Megaton / WRITERS: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen / STARRING: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Dougray Scott / YEAR: 2015 / GENRE: Action / COUNTRY: France / RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes