The original “Taken” was a special movie akin to the original “Die Hard.” Both were fantastic action movies that were later worn out with increasingly worse sequels attempting to cash in on their initial success. “Taken” stands as the beginning of Liam Neeson’s dominance in the action genre; while none of his subsequent movies quite match the magic of “Taken,” they do an acceptable job of scratching the action movie itch. “Taken 3” once again fails to live up to what came before it, but it passes as a fun and engaging action film.
The biggest problem with “Taken 3” is that the movie doesn’t really fit into the “Taken” universe. “Taken,” as a standalone movie, is an incredible action film with great “Bourne” style close combat and memorable quotes. “Taken 2” was forced in its narrative, but utilized a lot of the combat aspects that made the original great, making it enjoyable in its own right. “Taken 3” does not follow the narrative path the initial films created and greatly limits the action, making it the worst in the trilogy.
The plot of the movie isn’t terrible. However, it is an unoriginal story that has been told better before. We have the unstoppable action hero, the team of sidekicks, the defenseless damsel, the obnoxious Russian crew, the psychopath Russian spy, the useless cops and the one cop who actually knows what’s going on. If you are looking for a stereotypical action movie trope, “Taken 3” has them all. The problem is it doesn’t do anything to differentiate these characters from what’s been done in the past.
Liam Neeson (“A Walk Among the Tombstones”) attempts to shoulder the weight of this movie as ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills, but his screen time and action sequences are far too limited. The foundation of this franchise is built upon the ferocity and charisma Neeson was able to bring in the first installment, so it’s disappointing to watch this entry move away from that. The bottom line is that these films have succeeded because people want to see Neeson run around being a rough action hero, threatening, torturing and murdering everyone that stands in his way. This film tries to get all of the secondary characters involved too and focuses more on the emotional ramifications of a traumatic event, in the process drifting away from the strengths of the franchise.
Still, Neeson once again succeeds as the damaged and desperate anti-hero. He brings a charismatic and intimidating presence to the screen that wins over the viewer. His action sequences are gritty and engaging. At any point it looks like he might be losing the fight. This coupled with the smart use of setting makes for entertaining and realistic action set pieces, while also making his more malicious actions socially acceptable. Neeson is an unstoppable physical force paired with smart one-liners. He is the reason people are buying tickets. “Taken 3” limits his action to the second half of the movie, unfortunately, and gives way too much screen time to a less talented crop of secondary characters.
Maggie Grace (Kim, the daughter), Dougray Scott (the step father) and Sam Spruell (the angry Russian) all do average jobs in their limited roles but don’t bring anything new to the table. These are cookie-cutter roles that have been seen time and again and make “Taken 3” more of an action movie highlight reel then a new adventure. Forest Whitaker does a great job as the one smart cop but has random and unexplained character tendencies. Whitaker is a mental rival to Neeson but has no character development or background. That being said, Whitaker is a nice addition to the series as he pushes Neeson past just his physical limits. Neeson has some great undercover detective-like scenes to accompany his action, giving us a full range of his talents.
The director, Olivier Megaton, took some surprising camera choices in the faster moments of the movie that didn’t pay off. In a car chase and in a gas station fight the camera rapidly changes angles throughout, taking away from the feeling of immersion. At some points it’s hard to distinguish what is actually going on in these scenes because the director is constantly jumping between cameras. The action in the first two movies was successful because it was engaging, but the action in this movie can be jarring to watch.
After some one-note villains and an overused plot, the series comes to an end in disappointing fashion. After everything we have seen over the trilogy, and everything Neeson did, he walks away with no real closure or conclusion for his character. He is almost in the exact same spot he was in the last movie. Considering this is supposed to be the final chapter, it leaves the viewer wanting more.
“Taken 3” doesn’t live up to the level of quality set down by its predecessors. It attempts a new formula by giving a much larger role to the supporting cast, but this franchise was loved because of what Neeson delivers. The movie ultimately ends the franchise on a whimper rather than a bang, but Neeson makes for an enjoyable ride.