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Taken 3 is a So-So Ending to a Ho-Hum Franchise

<i>Taken 3</i> is a So-So Ending to a Ho-Hum Franchise

DVD Release Date: April 21, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: January 9, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief strong language)
Genre: Action/Thriller/Sequel
Run Time: 109 min.
Director: Olivier Megaton
Cast: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott

Unlike Taken 2, which was basically a beat-by-beat retread of the original two years ago, Taken 3, which promises "it ends here," has a quasi-original storyline with some actual stakes. If that comes across as an endorsement, mind you, it's not; but if the viewer keeps his/her expectations very, very low, it's not the worst action movie ever to grace the big screen (that honor, in my opinion, belongs to recent Arnold Schwarzenegger trifecta of Expendables 3, Escape Plan and The Last Stand).

Once again, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson, A Walk Among the Tombstones) and his family find themselves smack dab in harm's way. After a few moments of peace when Bryan decides to be "unpredictable" by surprising his college-aged daughter Kim (Maggie Grace, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Parts 1 & 2) with a giant stuffed panda and champagne three days before her actual birthday (not surprisingly, the odd gesture is a bust), he also invites his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) over for dinner later on.

After taking a raincheck on his offer initially, Lenore winds up joining Bryan at his apartment where they sip wine and discuss Lenore's increasing unhappiness in her current marriage. At one point, she gets rather flirty, but Bryan, striving to be an "honorable man" politely refuses her advances since she's married and all.

Of course, all this family harmony is pretty short-lived since Taken movies aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy family affairs. To wit, all the merriment comes to a screeching halt the next morning when Lenore winds up dead. Adding another layer to the Mills' unexpected loss, the crime scene suggests that it's Bryan who is responsible for the murder. Dun, dun, dun…

Forced to brandish his “particular set of skills” yet again, it’s not long before Bryan has not only outsmarted and outwitted local law enforcement but he’s also figured out who was actually responsible for Lenore’s death. And the violent cat and mouse game that ensues with Bryan repeatedly tangoing with a bunch of Russian baddies while staying a step ahead of the LAPD, is what consumes the bulk of Taken 3’s running time.

Featuring the requisite car chases, choreographed gunplay, and just to mix things up a bit, an extended waterboarding sequence, there’s never any doubt that Neeson’s character is going to make everyone else look downright incompetent in comparison. Not only did the screenwriters fail to give anyone outside of the Mills family exactly no redeeming qualities (even Kim’s poor boyfriend is the very definition of milquetoast), but the addition of another credentialed actor like Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler) seems to serve no other purpose than to reinforce how gifted our aging hero is.

What’s also surprisingly bad about Taken 3 is how haphazardly constructed it is from a technical standpoint. Not only do multiple scenes suffer from a distracting lack of continuity (the aforementioned waterboarding scene is the most egregious), but the choppy transitions from scene to scene have all the finesse of the average first year film student's work. It’s almost if everyone involved, save for Neeson, didn't really care: It's Taken, it'll sell tickets.

As sequels go, Taken 3 is a so-so ending to a ho-hum franchise. As much as the franchise wanted to be the second coming of Jason Bourne, it never came close. And for anyone who has seen Neeson in a film actually befitting his talent, one can’t help hoping he’ll be infinitely more discriminating in his choice of roles before it winds up being three films that never quite satisfy on any level—even as basic popcorn entertainment.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Celebratory champagne. Wine with dinner. Thinking they accomplished the mission, two operatives suggest going to get drunk. One of the big action scenes takes place in a liquor store.
  • Language/Profanity: The “brief strong language” refers to an f-bomb, but there’s other profanity sprinkled throughout (mostly sh--) and a few misuses of God’s name.
  • Sex/Nudity: An unmarried woman discovers she’s pregnant. Lenore, still married to Stuart, makes it pretty clear that she’d like to sleep with her ex husband, Bryan. Bryan cites “being an honorable man” as his reason for not hooking up. They share a brief kiss, though. Stuart accuses Bryan of sleeping with his wife.
  • Violence: A woman’s throat is slit, and her lifeless body is shown several times. The requisite car chases lead to multiple fatalities. Bryan uses waterboarding interrogation to extract crucial information from Stuart. Shoot-outs, strangling, kidnapping (or as they call it here “being taken”) and hand-to-hand combat depicted in multiple scenes. 

Publication date: January 9, 2015