With the original Taken movie from 2008 Liam Neeson delivered a surprise hit action thriller that established his currently very dominant image as a full-on action star. The original Taken was a movie that genuinely surprised everyone since nobody really expected Mr. Neeson to be able to deliver such good action entertainment within the framework of such a simple yet somewhat realistically told story. Sadly though, the formula tended to wear off quite a bit when the lackluster sequel Taken 2 got released.
The newest entry, Taken 3, seems like it considerably raises the stakes this time around. Though it primarily only takes place in the U.S. rather than a distant European location, Taken 3 might bring some new fresh air into the franchise. Though the question remains if that's a good thing or not?
Liam Neeson returns as ex-covert operative Bryan Mills, whose long awaited reconciliation with his ex-wife is tragically cut short when she is brutally murdered. Consumed with rage, and framed for the crime, he goes on the run to evade the relentless pursuit of the CIA, FBI and the police. For one last time, Mills must use his "particular set of skills," to track down the real killers, exact his unique brand of justice, and protect the only thing that matters to him now - his daughter.
Source: 20th Century Fox
As already mentioned, Taken 3 changes up things by raising the stakes considerably. With Bryan Mills' (Liam Neeson's) ex-wife being murdered pretty early on in the movie, Taken 3 actually is not really about someone being kidnapped but rather Neeson hunting down the ones responsible for framing him while constantly having to evade the police on the way. Does that sound familiar? Of course it does, because Taken 3 almost entirely feels and works like a cheaper copycat-version of the 90s action movie "The Fugitive".
With that said, though it's of course refreshing to see that the franchise tries to escape its familiar formula from the first two movies, Taken 3 at the same time seems to have a big identity crisis since it doesn't even feel like it belongs into the franchise at all. Instead, Taken 3 suffers greatly from its new story direction and watered-down feel, which relies painfully much on clicheed action movie tropes that audiences have already seen a hundred times. In that sense, Taken 3 often feels like a by-the-numbers 90s action movie in the most generic way possible.
Not only is dialogue badly written throughout and filled to the brim with stereotypical situations and lines that you can easily predict, but so is also the story in its entirety whose supposedly "big twist" at the end regarding "who really is the bad guy behind all this" comes off as majorly disappointing. The identity of Taken 3's main villain is therefore just as well hidden as any movie with Ben Kingsley in it.
|Taken 3? More like The Fugitive 2.|
What's even worse than Taken 3's heavily predictable story is the fact that the meat and bones of the franchise, the gritty and harsh action scenes, have been considerably trimmed down in the movie to achieve a PG-13 rating. And despite the fact that Taken 3 already has actually quite a bit fewer action scenes to offer in comparison to its two predecessors, the PG-13 rating of Taken 3 resultingly made pretty much all of the few action scenes in the movie feel toothless. They heavily lack the trademark realistic grit and exploding brutality of Neeson's combat moves that made the original Taken stand out so much.
Making matters worse is that you can clearly tell that said PG-13 rating has been achieved by many segments of the action just being cut out in post-production. The biggest indicator for this is that Neeson always seems to inexplicably escape even the deadliest situations he's stuck in, making it often feel like parts of the movie are missing. For example: during a highway chase in which Neeson's car is shot to shreds leading him to crash down into some rocks with the car exploding and burning down, the next shot (after the bad guys drive off) simply shows Neeson alive and well walking down the highway. How did he manage to escape the crashed and burning car wreck? We never get to know. He is just Liam Neeson and he can do this through his "particular set of skills". Really...viewers shouldn't expect a great sense for realism or continuity in Taken 3.
|"Cut for a PG-13 rating" or "The Expendables 3 - Syndrome".|
While Neeson's character Bryan Mills has honestly never been very complex to begin with, the fact that his super-CIA-agent abilities are often praised so overly much in Taken 3 often make him somewhat feel a bit like in a Steven Seagal movie.
Character development is pretty much nowhere to be found except for maybe Bryan Mills' daughter Kim (played by Maggie Grace). Her struggle whether to tell her father that she is pregnant or not and whether she is able to even raise a child herself with her boyfriend is the only truely dramatic theme in the movie. But seeing that it's only dealt with at the start and the ending of the movie makes it absolutely irrelevant for the movie's story whatsoever. It's just a clicheed and lame excuse to shove in some forced emotional weight into the flick. Making matters worse are the aforementioned boring and highly predictable conversations about "Kim's secret" with her dad. This is really cringeworthily bad writing right there.
Also Taken 3 is a great showcase of why Maggie Grace is a horrible or at least very weak actress (just pay attention to the scene in which she gets to know that her mother is dead).
|"Now, let's talk about the birds and the bees..."|
Actor Forest Whitaker as Inspector Frank Dotzler represents the new face in the Taken cast and is almost the exact same character as Tommy Lee Jones' one from The Fugitive.
He is practically the embodiment of the 90s "good guy police inspector secretly rooting for the protagonist although he is supposed to catch him" complete with special ticks that he shows when he is focussing on the case and "putting the pieces together". Though Whitaker's performance as Frank Dotzler makes for a likable character in the movie, Dotzler in the end rather still comes off as goofy and useless and whose work doesn't really benefit Neeson's hunt for the true bad guy in any meaningful way. His tick of constantly doing some weird finger tricks with a rubber band that he carries around is only there to fool the audience that he is a very good thinker and talented inspector when he is actually not.
Villains in Taken 3 are mostly consisting out of pretty generic and faceless Russian Mafia gangsters and kingpins, who don't do much to give Taken 3 more personality. The movie's extremely predictable big twist at the end revealing who the "real mastermind" behind it all is doesn't really do the movie any favors either. It's as run-of-the-mill standard action thriller movie business as it gets.
|TAKEN 3: FOREST WHITAKER IS...one useless inspector.|
All in all, Taken 3 is as generic, uninspired and clichee as it gets and an alarming indicator that the Taken franchise should immediately end here (although it shouldn't have been made into a franchise in the first place).
Though Liam Neeson showed multiple times in other action thrillers in the recent years that he is very much capable of delivering great action entertainment to audiences, it's hard to deny that the Taken franchise is pretty much the "Hangover franchise of action movies": The first one was a great surprise hit, the second one was just more of the same and feeling very tired, the third one was the worst and most unnecessary of them all.
With that said, Taken 3 has as good as nothing left of what made the original Taken from 2008 so great. A very run-of-the-mill copycat storyline of The Fugitive, 90s clichees galore and stereotypical characters, bad dialogue and only a few toothless PG-13 action scenes make Taken 3 feel more like a shoved out product rather than a movie with actual passion and ideas behind it.
Taken 3 is sadly only a shadow of the former great appeal of the original Taken and a very forgettable action thriller affair that even Taken fans can easily skip.
Final Verdict: 2 out of 10