** (out of 5)
January 9, 2015
Liam Neeson as BRYAN MILLS
Forest Whitaker as FRANCK DOTZLER
Famke Janssen as LENORE ST. JOHN
Maggie Grace as KIM MILLS
Don Harvey as GARCIA
Dylan Bruno as SMITH
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
BY KEVIN CARR
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Before I saw “Taken 3,” I really enjoyed the franchise. Yeah, I even liked the second movie, which many critics kept at an arm’s length because it was such a retread of the first film. However, I still enjoyed that one. Sure, it was essentially the same film with some minor changes, but it still delivered on what made the first movie so fun.
While the first “Taken” was a surprise hit that was generally enjoyed by critics and audiences alike, this second sequel loses most of the elements that made the series unique. In fact, “Taken 3” is so unlike the previous two films that it doesn’t even live up to the other lesser badass action flicks with Liam Neeson that followed the first movie.
A lot of the franchise’s uniqueness was a result of French action director Luc Besson’s influence. While Besson was just a producer and writer, he brought his punchy European sensibilities to the movie. Offering a different set of locations for an American action film and keeping the energy and action ramped up made “Taken” a surprise hit and gave Liam Neeson a new career as a viable box office action hero.
However, a lot of this is gone from “Taken 3.” Rather than chasing international gangsters across various borders in European locations (which subtly prey on the xenophobic travel fears of many Americans), “Taken 3” is set entirely in the city limits of Los Angeles. This changes the bigger world of the “Taken” franchise into just another humdrum man-on-the-run action movie filmed in and around Hollywood.
To grind the franchise even more with the feeling of “been there, done that,” the film brings in Forest Whitaker as a single-minded detective determined to capture our hero. It’s a role so familiar to Whitaker, he could play it in his sleep, and along with the L.A. location, it makes “Taken 3” into pretty much everything else with no unique feel to it.
Even worse… nothing is really taken in this movie. And that’s the damn title!
Sure, there’s a crime that hits close to home. Bryan Mills’ (Neeson) wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is murdered, and he is framed for the crime. So yeah, technically his wife is taken from him. However, this set-up leads to a basic revenge plot with Neeson coming after a gangster whom he thinks is behind the murder.
But there’s no kidnapping. There’s no real detecting that happens. Aside from showing Neeson able to beat the living hell out of people and take their guns, there’s very little nuance to that “very particular set of skills” we saw him break out in the previous two films. Even worse, he seems to have forgotten these skills with rookie mistakes like leaving his door unlocked and not reading signs of suspicious behavior that are apparent to a blind, brain-dead baboon. In this sense, the character of Bryan Mills is neutered into a generic action hero that barely has the depth to be believable in a 90s-era made-for-Showtime movie.
I have enjoyed this franchise up to this point, but the only thing that “Taken 3” accomplished was making me not want to sit through another installment.