Marketed as being the finale to the “Liam Neeson as an asskicker with a special set of skills” franchise, Taken 3 couldn’t be any weaker or any more of an unfunny, time wasting joke if its final scene ended with a thunderous fart noise. It couldn’t have been made by anyone that remotely gives a damn about filmmaking or giving a paying audience an actually decent action movie. It’s a movie specifically made to literally take your money for a third time. Actually, the fart noise would have been a welcome catharsis and an infinitely better and more respectable ending.
I quite enjoy the first Taken film, and I’m one of a very small handful of critics who didn’t think the second film was all that bad. Taken 3 is garbage cinema made by a combination of garbage talent and talented people who clearly don’t give a shit. You would be better off punching yourself in the crotch really hard and giving me twelve dollars. You might not see the appeal of this now, but you’ll save yourself a lot of time and aggravation and be out the same amount of money. And if you, by some divine miracle, actually like Taken 3, please do us a favour and stop going to the movies and ruining it for the rest of us by glutting cinemas with this refuse. If you HAVE to watch this and your LIFE DEPENDS on seeing a beyond Z-grade action flick, please stop going to cinemas and watching them. Watch them in your own private shame on VOD where this deserves to be buried.
Bryan Mills (Neeson, clearly not doing his own stunts or fighting this time and caring even less about giving a performance) has been framed for the murder of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen, who looks to be mentally counting the seconds until she can go home). Mills goes off the grid to try to clear his name and stay one step ahead of a tenacious, but good hearted detective (Forest Whitaker, not only giving the only good performance, but giving his role way too much dignity). He’s once again helped by his now unexpectedly pregnant daughter (Maggie Grace, giving a bare minimum of shits) and his team of former spy cohorts to uncover a conspiracy involving her ex’s current husband (Dougray Scott, about to fall asleep) and a poorly characterized Russian badass (Sam Spruell, in too little of the film to make a difference).
It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the first two films of the franchise, since either is barely mentioned and neither previous entry ties into this film’s plot. It reduces the roles played by Janssen and Grace to such a degree that you’re actively supposed to forget that in the last film Mills’ daughter really saves the day and proves to be a capable heroine. Here she just has to cry, be pregnant, and act so stupid I wish that writers Luc Besson (who needs to be stopped) and Robert Kamen had included the scene where she gets a full on lobotomy. There’s no rehashing about Mills’ past, but plenty of times where people stop what they’re doing to rehash the entire asinine and ludicrously stupid plot word for word and for absolutely no reason. This is a film too stupid for exposition so it just repeats its own story beats.
This repetition extends to the dreadfully incompetent direction from Olivier Megaton. I understand that the version of the Taken films that are released in North America have been scrubbed and sanitized of most of their gory violence (but not extensive sequences where our hero bombs a school or waterboards a guy), but outside of making the film’s scant few action sequences virtually indecipherable it ruins even the simplest of beats. A simple scene where a pair of beat cops confront Mills in the back of a minimart is so unconscionably choppy that the same detective enters the room three times because Megaton can’t keep track of anything he’s doing. Sure, the film’s trio of major explosions are shown from numerous different angles in full, but why apply this to every other scene of the film? If one were to cut out every redundancy that Megaton leaves in the film would easily run thirty minutes shorter.
But let’s double back for a second because I know what some of you are thinking: “Andrew, why are you being so hard on an action movie that’s clearly meant to be stupid and silly?” Because this is the wrong kind of stupid and silly. Taken 3 thinks that you, the viewer, are stupid and silly for being there in the first place. It holds you in open contempt because it knows you’ll pay the money to see it regardless of quality. It’s confident that you have become so brainwashed that you might be tricked into thinking you could have fun being there.
There’s a difference between something good naturedly dumb that doesn’t give a damn about the people who actually have to sit there and watch it. With lazy storytelling and some great action sequences, I probably still wouldn’t have liked the film, but at least I would have something to praise. As it stands, Megaton forgets the most important aspect of his allegedly dumb, silly, and lightweight film. There’s one car chase that offers plenty of flipping vehicles and very little energy or originality. Two other half hearted car chases last only about a minute each before coming to shrug worthy conclusions (one of which is the climax). There are about three scenes of Neeson beating people up that are so poorly staged that Steven Seagal’s latter day direct to video output looks polished and seamless by comparison. Some people get shot in the least stylish way possible. That’s it, and none of it is remotely memorable or as fun as anything in the other two films.
So without any action to distract me, I’m forced to focus on just how little this movie cares to ever form a coherent thought. Like why include a scene where Mills – desperate to talk to his daughter to make sure she’s safe – doses her with poison to make her sick when he literally could have just left a note saying “meet me in the bathroom” or why the obvious “secret” villain’s motivation is nothing more than “I hate you and I’m super jealous that you’re more of a man than I am.” There’s nothing here escapist enough to overlook just how rushed everything is. I find it unfathomable that anyone at any studio could look at a single scene of Taken 3 and say with a straight face, “Yeah, that will fly.”
Unless, of course, that executive saw that every scene was terrible and pushed it through because there was clearly no way to save it. That’s the only way something like this becomes even remotely excusable. That doesn’t mean you need to see it.
I was just reminded by a friend that the woefully under-seen A Walk Among the Tombstones comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week. If you want to watch a film worthy of Neeson’s capabilities as an actor and as a badass, see that. If you want to see a silly film that’s worthy only of Neeson’s capabilities as a badass, both of the first Taken films and Non-Stop are readily available from any video store or online service. There isn’t a single reason on this or any other planet to go out into the cold to watch reheated trash. If you have to go to the movies this weekend, I can safely say that every other film in theatres right now is better than Taken 3, even the ones I don’t like. There’s no reason for this to be a success and supporting it only means Neeson might be coaxed into doing another one. Just stop it, guys. Stop the madness. Save Liam Neeson. He’s a great actor. He – and all of you – deserve so much better.