We currently live in the age of the sequel. Sometimes that’s a good thing. The likes of Before Midnight and Toy Story 3 have proven that you can gloriously extend a franchise’s world and its characters with each additional installment. But then there are those sequels that try and stretch an original film’s idea, and only end up making a tepid imitation. Taken 2 did just that to Taken, and now Taken 3 has arrived and sucked the remaining good will and joy from the 2008 action thriller, cementing the franchise’s status as plain old laughable in the process.
Which is a shame, because lest we forget that Taken was a rollicking rollercoaster of impressively slick action when it originally hit cinemas. It had nothing else on its mind other than being brainless fun, and despite being as predictable as a sunrise, it delivered what it intended in a brisk, satisfying manner. And of the course, the fact that it was made on a relatively stringent budget and went on to gross $226.8 million always meant that more Bryan Mills tales would follow.
Taken 2 duly arrived and was the complete opposite of its predecessor. It had none of the charm, shocks or thrills of Taken and the fact that it had been rushed into cinemas to capitalize on the original’s success was plainly evident on screen. But it made money. A ton of money. In fact, it grossed even more than Taken. So, depressingly, despite its cavalcade of cinematic atrocities, Taken 3 was immediately greenlit. And I’m here to tell you that it’s just as bad, if not worse, than Taken 2.
Taken 3 once again sees Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills dolling out pain and suffering to anyone who stands in his way, all because of another injustice that has fallen onto his estranged family. This time, rather than his daughter, Maggie Grace’s Kim, or his ex-wife, Famke Janssen’s Lenore, being kidnapped, the latter is killed. A crime that Bryan Mills is framed for. After alluding the first police officers on the scene, Bryan Mills goes into hiding and looks to clear his name. Along the way, a cavalcade of new characters chase him. There's Dougray Scott’s Stuart St. John, Lenore’s new husband who she has recently been having marital issues with. There's Forest Whitaker’s smart-as-a-whip Inspector Franck Dotzler; Russian gangsters; and a posse of Bryan Mills’ pals joining in on the adventure. Plus, the LAPD (on screen, the descendants of the Keystone Cops) attempt to aid the investigation but are routinely decimated whenever they even come close to Mills’ particular set of skills.
It’s both hard and easy to hate Taken 3. It’s hard because, once again, it knows exactly what it is and it has no bones about it. It’s easy because it is truly atrocious. The opening 20 minutes literally play like a bad soap opera, so much so that it’s feasible these pages of Taken 3's script were lifted straight out of Days Of Our Lives. Not only is there a surprise pregnancy, but there is also an extramarital kiss and a murder, plus the script is also populated with a plethora of lame jokes that will almost certainly make you contemplate suicide. Why does Taken 3 begin in such a lame manner? I can only imagine it is the screenwriters' way of trying to build up tension and heart before the action truly kicks in. It succeeds in doing neither. We don’t care about Bryan Mills and his family this time out. They have become dull. We just want to see him kicking ass in an original, surprising and clever fashion. Unfortunately, those moments never arrive.
Despite possessing a name that suggests he was born to direct action films, Olivier Megaton’s frenzied approach to Taken 3’s set-pieces is so deliriously energetic and furious that it’s impossible to get your bearings. There is no logistics or rhythm to the action scenes, and you find yourself completely lost amidst the flying punches and colliding cars. On at least two separate occasions - once in an elevator and the other down a cliff - Bryan Mills is heading towards certain death, only for him to appear alive and well in the next scene after the melee has died down - while we’re none the wiser to how he survived. It’s weak, lazy filmmaking that makes you wonder where Taken 3's $48-million budget was spent.
The cast try their best, especially Forest Whitaker, who adds some nice traits to Inspector Franck Dotzler. It's impossible, however, to be impressed by Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills because the men he goes up against are so preposterously inept. You already know why Taken 3 fails. It has the same nauseatingly bad script, predictably tedious plot, offensively clichéd characterization and lifeless action that has populated hundreds of lame action films before it. It’s almost offensive that Hollywood regularly feeds us this same hackneyed tripe at least half a dozen times a year. But at the same time it’s soul-destroying that audiences keep lapping it up in their droves. Until we stop, expect these films to keep coming, and expect them to, like Taken 3, be a complete waste of time too.