In 2008, Liam Neeson’s leading man career was given a serious kick in the pants when he headlined the unexpectedly awesome “Taken.” Now, more than seven years later, this third — and allegedly final — edition to the franchise plays more like a movie caught with its pants down instead of an adrenaline infused action pic. From director Olivier Megaton, (Transporter 3) “Taken 3” is a movie that whimpers rather than roars.
All the usual suspects are back in action as “Taken 3” picks up where the last one left off. Swapping the exotic locales of Paris and Istanbul for the decidedly domestic urban sprawl of Los Angeles, the audience reteams with Neeson’s retired CIA and full-fledged family man Bryan Mills as he drops off an early birthday present to his now college-aged daughter (Maggie Grace).
After some ridiculously cheesy father/daughter dialogue from co-writer and co-creators Luc Besson (Lucy) and Robert Mark Kamen (The Fifth Element), the traditional “Taken” style narrative of father fights and finds family is suddenly given a twist after the unexpected death of a key character. This time, Mills isn’t rushing about to save somebody who’s been kidnapped, but to prove his own innocence of the murder.
While this fresh spin might be a first for the series, it definitely isn’t groundbreaking in the larger scope of the action genre. “The Fugitive,” anyone? Even worse, the convoluted pacing of the movie only makes the overall experience that much more hard to swallow.
Even with a script as brainless as any number of nameless goons Mills beats up during the course of the movie, writer/producer Luc Besson and director Olivier Megaton do create beautiful mayhem every chance they get. Besson’s eye for action really is masterful, and Megaton — even his last name screams Big Time Action! — captures the destruction with a deft touch as well.
Unfortunately, almost a decade later, this whole run and gun lifestyle looks to be finally taking a toll on Neeson. He flat out looks tired in the part. But who can blame him? He definitely suffers through enough explosions and crippling fight scenes throughout the film.
Yet, no amount of pyrotechnic pizzazz can combat the sheer idiocy of the script. Aiding in all of this hammy hoopla is a newcomer to the series: Detective Dotzler (Forest Whitaker). After a powerful performance in last year’s “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” it’s a shame that Whitaker settled for such an awkward, one-beat role. Seeing as his character is responsible for tracking down Mills and bringing him to justice, Dozler doesn’t do much more than brood over the case… then brood some more.
Even worse than Whitaker’s Dozler character, is the return of Dougray Scott (TV’s Hemlock Grove) as Kim’s sleazy stepfather. It’s obvious from the get-go that the guy has some sort of involvement with all of the trouble Mills finds himself in. There’s an entire prologue devoted to it. Yet, Megaton chooses to beat the audience over the head with asinine, cliché plot points. The result is straight up boring. In the end, the story definitely defeats the audience with an old fashioned sleeper-hold rather than a powerful knockout punch.
Another black eye for the film comes from the surprisingly poor production quality of the special effects. One would think that for a franchise that has amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in box office revenue, there would be virtually no blatantly obvious computer graphics. Sadly, this just isn’t the case. There are boxy graphics galore and entire scenes that look more like they were taken from the latest Grand Theft Auto video game instead of a 20th Century Fox distributed motion picture.
After enduring so much pain and suffering over the years, Bryan and his daughter Kim deserve a much-needed vacation. Forget a weekend at the beach. These guys deserve total peace and seclusion for months! Even better, how about the entire franchise takes a permanent vacation? That would probably be the best thing for all fictional and real life parties involved. One can only hope.
By David Morris
Running Time: 1hr 52min
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief strong language