When the original Taken released back in 2008 it was, for the most part, a sleeper hit that became an instant cult-classic. Fans of Luc Besson (Fifth Element, Lock Out) probably knew it was going to be something special though, considering the Writer/Director’s previous works. It was a film that offered Liam Neeson renewed stardom and spawned a resurgence of the classic action revenge-fuelled film genre (The Equalizer and John Wick most recently).
Personally I feel like cult-hit action films should probably be stand-alone features… but the “brilliant” money-centric minds in Hollywood would beg to differ, and so regardless of good taste one of the best pieces of action film in the last decade received two more (completely unnecessary) follow-ups. Based on the success of the third instalment, it’s likely to be the last of the franchise as well.
To be clear, I’m not an art-house indie nerd or one of those critics that believes you need to be Oscar-worthy to be a good film. I enjoy stupid action as much as the next guy (the Fast and Furious and Crank franchises will hold a special place in my heart for all time). However, when the film franchise loses everything that made it good in the first place, there’s AT MINIMUM an argument to be made for changing the damn title of the film.
Taken 3 feels far less like the original Taken than even the second film, which was pretty insane by comparison already. It branches out into a storyline that feels like a straight up rip-off of the Fugitive where in the main character (Bryan Mills) is accused of the murder of his wife and is set on the run at the top of the film. It gets to the point where Neeson’s character actually avoids capture by running down a sewage run-off system… the imagery couldn’t have been any more direct if the scene had ended in a leap-of-faith off the side of a dam.
On the other side of the law, Forest Whitaker enters the franchise as a stand in for Tommy Lee Jones’ Samuel Gerard complete with a scene that left me waiting for the “out house, dog house” speech. Worse than the overlap of character portrayal and progression though was how terrible the police in Taken 3 are. On several occasions Franck Dotzler (Whitaker) tells his squad to straight up ignore clues that have been left by the criminal they are pursuing (Neeson) because it’s “not worth it.”
Even if we allow ourselves the suspension of disbelief that Dotzler knows Mills so well after having read a bit of background information on him (the movie literally takes time out to let us know that Dotzler looked him up and couldn’t find anything, assuming EVERYTHING about his past instead) it’s far-fetched (to be generous) to assume that police don’t still have to do their due-diligence. One scene literally has Dotzler tell people NOT to follow a GPS tracking signal in a cell phone that was just used to make a call to Dotzler directly. SERIOUSLY!?
Painfully bad scripting and horrible police work aside, the movie winds up being a ridiculous rollercoaster of action sequences sewn together with the most ridiculous ‘plot’ the franchise has ever had, punctuated with some of the worst hacking I’ve seen since Live Free or Die Hard. It also winds down with the absolute WORST wrap-up in the history of film as Dotzler lets Mills go because he “knew all along” what was going on because of a f*cking bagel, in a scene that feels like someone ending on “No, I totally know what happened… I just want you to tell me, to see if YOU knew.”
Let’s be honest though, if you’ve considered (or already gone to see) Taken 3 you probably don’t care how bad a film it really is. Chances are if you were one of those people (like myself) that said (without a hint of irony) “Taken 3? HELL YEAH!” then you know EXACTLY what you’re getting into.
It’s a fun piece of campy garbage where Liam Neeson spends 2 hours trying to keep a straight face while the world around him grows increasingly cartoonish and stupid. At some point the studios are going to have to throw Bryan Mills into an Expendables level mash-up with characters like Chev Chelios and John McClane.
I’ll be first in line to buy that ticket too… god help me.[box] The Good: If you’re a fan of camp/dumb action movies… you’ll at least have yourself some fun, and something to laugh at.
The Bad: Terrible script writing, negative character development (I think Mills actually regresses), incoherent plot, and the worst police force in cinematic history.
The Verdict: If RiffTrax does a commentary, definitely check this one out. Otherwise, you’re only allowed to watch this film knowing full well that it is Crank 2-level stupid.