Taken 3

Directed by:  Luc Besson

Starring: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, and Leland Orser

In 2008, Taken transformed Liam Neeson into a bona fide action star at age 55.  Known for Schindler’s List and Gangs of New York, among other films, Neeson became a kickass protagonist who could draw people to the box office for an action thriller.  Unfortunately, Taken 3 is a pathetic attempt at cashing in on the success of the first two films.

Bryan Mills (Neeson) is a former spy/operative whose professional life has often come at the expense of his personal life.  Mills continues to do miscellaneous jobs, but has generally retired from more dangerous work.  More importantly, however, he now has a great relationship with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and his ex-wife Lenny (Famke Janssen).  Unbeknownst to Bryan, his world is about to be shattered.  Kim is in college living with her boyfriend and discovers that she is pregnant.  Meanwhile, Lenny’s marriage to Stuart (Dougray Scott) is in shambles, and she reaches out to Bryan to rekindle their relationship.  Bryan refuses to become involved with Lenny until she definitively decides whether she will end her marriage with Stuart.

Right before Bryan is about to go out of town, he receives a text from Lenny asking him to pick up some bagels and meet her at his house.  Bryan grabs the bagels and goes to his house where he finds Lenny on his bed with her throat slit.  The police arrive as Bryan kneels by Lenny stunned by grief and loss.  Immediately, the cops try to apprehend Bryan as a suspect.  However, he knows that he has a limited amount of time to track down and find the murderer.  Moreover, he must do everything in his power to protect the only family he has left, Kim.  So Bryan overtakes the cops and escapes.  Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) is assigned to the case, and he attempts to apprehend Bryan.  Bryan must fight the police, those behind Lenny’s murder and the clock.

The original Taken was entertaining and fast-paced.  Director Luc Besson created a genuine thrill ride, and he grabbed the audience with tense scenes.  Whether it was Maggie Grace hiding from criminals under a bed, Neeson perched precariously on a window sill or shooting bad guys, the movie grabbed your attention. Moreover, Neeson’s character was a different kind of protagonist with “a particular set of skills.”  He was older, but he radiated strength, masculinity and intelligence.  His fight sequences and overall dominance were believable.  Moreover, his character was not a typical “hero” in that he did things that heroes do not do.  He had no qualms about shooting the wife of a shady French official or torturing someone if it meant finding his daughter.  As an audience member, I really did not know what he was going to do next.  That was the thrill.

Unfortunately, Taken 3 does not have any of the magic of the original movie. The focus of the film is wrong.  While we do see Neeson’s character working to find his wife’s murderer, much of the film is spent with Neeson on the run. At the very beginning of the movie, Neeson overpowers cops and starts running through the neighborhood to avoid arrest. I am not one to discriminate based on age.  I think that Neeson still has plenty of action movies in his future.  However, Liam Neeson’s running set the wrong tone for the movie. He is older and lanky, and he lumbers slowly down the street as the cops chase him.  He does not appear to be running very fast but somehow he outran much younger cops.  It was not like watching Tom Cruise, Daniel Craig or Will Smith run.  It was more of a joke and not believable.  In fact, you can clearly spot when a stunt double is in a scene because the stunt double is swiftly and spryly jumping fences.  While this may seem like a minor point, this set the tone for the rest of the film.  Immediately, I stopped thinking of Neeson’s character as this powerful ex-spy, but I started to view his character as tired and past his prime. This is not the alpha male that took us on an adrenaline ride in 2008.

Taken 3 feels tired.  The plot is underdeveloped and transparent.  Besson relies on ridiculous car chases to bring excitement rather than offering something new. Moreover, Besson’s choice to have the film take place in America removes some of the air of mystery and danger.  Both Taken and Taken 2 were set in Europe.  There was something about the unknown setting and the characters being in a foreign country that added to the suspense and the feeling that the Mills’ family was on their own.  The bumbling cops in Taken 3 do not provide the same level of danger and it is clear from start to finish that Neeson will outwit everyone.

Taken 3 earns wasted rating.  You’ll need shots mystery to enjoy this film.  Your time would be better spent watching the original film again.  In fact, the dismal Taken 2 is more enjoyable than the final entry in this trilogy.