Taken 3 (2014)
★ / ★★★★
“Taken 3” is a death rattle to a series that started off so strongly, we learned that Liam Neeson could be an action star—not just any action star who can shoot guns and look good doing it, but one who we can sympathize with when the chips are down and cheer for when a baddie deserves his comeuppance. This film exists to steal our time unabashedly, which is actually worse than taking money out of our pockets.
The nondescript setup is this: Bryan Mills (Neeson) receives a text from his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), that she would like to meet him at his place for bagels, presumably to talk about the marital issues she is having with her current husband (Dougray Scott). But when Mills gets to his apartment, he discovers Lenore on the bed with her throat slashed. He has been framed and escape will not be so easy since two cops are already on the scene.
Writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen should be ashamed because what they have come up with is a regurgitation of painfully standard action plot lines. They attempt to insert a twist here and there but they make no impact because there is no emotional heft to the material. We already know that Mills has a talent for extricating himself out of the most complicated situations and so when a rather straightforward and predictable murder “mystery” is placed in front of him, there is no tension. We watch passively as one boring scene bleeds through another.
The action sequences command no sense of urgency. The shootouts are not well-choreographed; everyone just seems to be shooting at each other aimlessly. Once in a while someone gets hit. The vehicle chases are sloppily put together; the editing is so manic at times that it is a challenge to appreciate the thrill or suspense of a scene. The hand-to-hand combat, too, is lacking. Eventually, Mills gets into a fistfight with a Russian man who is directly involved in Lenore’s murder. The scene is supposed to be raw, suggested by the closeups, but I found it only mildly watchable. The lead actor does not seem very into it either.
The supporting characters are cardboard cutouts. Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) is supposed to be smart and highly pragmatic. It is difficult to buy into his character because although we see him make conclusions, we are not given a chance to walk in his shoes for a little bit and experience how his mind puts two and two together. Meanwhile, Maggie Grace, playing Mills’ daughter, is a bore, her character a caricature of a young woman in college who discovers that she might be pregnant. Of course she’s going to name her baby after her mother by the time the movie ends!
Directed by Olivier Megaton, “Taken 3” is an exercise is banality. There are only a few times when I have nothing positive to point out even in a bad movie. I don’t know what’s sadder or more infuriating—that the filmmakers, including the producers, know they are making this only to make money or that people are actually paying to consume the trash placed on their laps.