Should I Watch..? 'Taken 3' (2014)
What's the big deal?
Taken 3 is an action thriller film released in 2014 and is apparently the final instalment of the Taken series. The film once again stars Liam Neeson as former covert operative Bryan Mills who this time is framed for murder and must go on the run to find the real killer. The film also stars Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Forest Whitaker and Dougray Scott. The film was written by long-time series helmers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen and directed by Olivier Megaton. The film once again took the box office by storm with global earnings in excess of $326 million but the film garnered the worst reviews of the series so far with critics slamming the film for its action sequences, editing, plot and direction. After this, the series would move to TV for a possible series in 2017.
What's it about?
After visiting his daughter Kim to deliver a birthday surprise, former special ops Bryan Mills invites his ex-wife Lenore round for dinner. To his surprise, she turns up and speaks to him about the difficulties she is facing in her current marriage to businessman Stuart St. John. Bryan agrees to give her space to sort out her relationship before deciding whether he wants to move forward. The next day, he receives a text from Lenore asking to meet him for breakfast. Heading out for some bagels, Bryan comes back home to find Lenore's body in his bedroom.
Within seconds, members of the LAPD arrive to arrest Bryan but he resists arrest and escapes. Determined to uncover who was really responsible for his ex-wife's murder, Bryan goes underground and contacts Kim to let her know what has happened. But hot on Bryan's tail is LAPD Inspector Frank Dotzler and his team, who are quickly understanding just how dangerous Bryan is...
What's to like?
It's safe to say that without Taken, Liam Neeson's career would not have had the renaissance that it has enjoyed since its release. And despite the years since, Neeson is just as bad-ass in this film as he was in the first. Performing all the fight scenes himself and snarling like a wounded tiger throughout, there is just something about his character that pulls you in. You never know for sure what Bryan's background actually is or who his buddies are, just that Bryan has developed into one of modern cinema's best action heroes.
Wisely, the plot avoids falling into the same trap as Taken 2 and dispenses with the whole kidnapping angle altogether. It's good seeing Bryan do something other than kill an awful lot of bad people in brutal fashion which, if we're honest, can feel a bit repetitive. It's also good to see that the film has stayed at home for this outing because as a foreigner, I did feel the Taken films were becoming increasingly xenophobic. Other things to write home about include the performance of Grace as Bryan's daughter Kim and Whitaker's inclusion to the cast as the unflappable cop chasing the wrong man. The film may takes it time to get going but once it does, there is no stopping it with action scenes being full of energy and excitement.
- Neeson reportedly told the producers he would only do a third film if nobody gets taken. As late as February 2013, he said "I don't think there'll be a "Taken 3". She can't get taken again - that's just bad parenting!"
- The role of Stuart St. John was originally played by Xander Berkeley in the first Taken but he was unavailable this time around so the role was recast with Dougray Scott winning the role. Scott also plays Janssen's love interest in the TV series Hemlock Grove.
- This has the longest running time of any film in the series. Neeson and Whitaker don't share any screen time until 102 minutes into the film.
What's not to like?
The trouble with the action is... actually, there's quite a bit wrong with it. Because each scene is made up entirely of half-a-second edits, the action feels disjointed and illogical with several scenes not making any sense. Couple this with some of the most random scripting I've ever seen (is there a car trunk in LA that Mills doesn't have access to?) and the fact that Neeson is clearly indestructible and it means that Taken 3 is little more than a meaningless jumble of actions scenes and bloodless fights. No hint of the wince-inducing violence seen in the first film here.
There is no sense of danger to proceedings, partly due to Neeson's character knowing so many spy tricks that he's several pages ahead in the script but also because the real killer's identity is so obvious. Despite this, the film still manages to confuse the viewer with impossible leaps of logic and reveals that defy everything you've just seen. This film is about as stupid as peeing onto an electric fence and only half as enjoyable. What had started as a legitimately decent action film quickly descended into the realms of dodgy scripting and unimaginative action sequences. Watching Mills escape from a police car reminded me so much of Angelina Jolie doing the exact same thing in Salt which at least had the novelty value of seeing a woman kick ass instead of someone like Neeson.
Should I watch it?
After such a good start to the series, it's depressing to see Taken 3 drag itself over the finishing line having long since hit its top speed. This is the sort of daft action film where you see the hero get involved in a car crash, see the car explode and not have even the slightest amount of surprise when he suddenly appears a few seconds later, apparently unscratched. If anything, Taken 3 serves as a reminded to producers not to force more films out of a good one if there is no more a sequel can bring to the series.
Great For: forgiving action fans, reminding audiences how good Taken was, plot-hole spotters
Not So Great For: fans of the first film, Neeson's attempts at escaping being typecast, screen-writing teachers
What else should I watch?
Liam Neeson has certainly been making up for lost time ever since Taken took everyone by surprise back in 2008. Even without the sequels to that film, he has played similar action roles in films like Unknown, Non-Stop, A Walk Among The Tombstones and The Grey just for starters. They all feel pretty similar to each other but with Neeson's Irish accent mumbling threats instead of younger actors plying their trade.
It wouldn't surprise me if Neeson got a call from Sylvester Stallone for the next Expendables movie. That series started with 2010's The Expendables which rounded up a bunch of action movie stars and threw them into a number of scenes together. The next two films, released in 2012 and 2014, gathered even more together so the franchise can now boast of having stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Antonio Banderas, Steve Austin, Randy Couture, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford and many more. Surely Neeson has done enough to join their ranks in semi-retirement?
Lenore Mills-St. John
Inspector Frank Dotzler
Stuart St. John
Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen
Release Date (UK)
8th January, 2015
© 2017 Benjamin Cox