Taken 3

If all action movies were made like Taken 3, I’d have to stop watching action movies. This is easily the low point of the franchise, and if it does wind up being the concluding chapter, it’s a poor way to go out. At one point, Liam Neeson said he wasn’t going to reprise his role as Bryan Mills, but a large paycheck managed to bring him back. He should have stuck to his guns, as Taken 3 is a disappointing mark on his resume.

Set a couple of years after the last film — which, if you don’t remember, was completely forgettable and basically doesn’t matter — Taken 3 follows Bryan Mills, a former government operative, as he tries to find out who killed his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), for which he is framed. So, he’s on the run from the cops, led by Inspector Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), and also some Russian guys. Also in the picture: his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), and Lenore’s new husband, Stuart (Dougray Sctott). Mills gets to do his action-hero stuff in order to try to figure out who ordered his ex-wife’s murder and framed him.

Unfortunately, “action-hero stuff” consists primarily of driving around. It seems that Liam Neeson is finally starting to show his age. Neeson seemed stiff, and in many of the more intense action scenes, a combination of shaky-cam, rapid-fire editing, and shots from behind try to mask the fact that Neeson isn’t the one doing these things. An early chase scene is particularly bad for this. After that scene, Neeson is mostly just seen driving around or trying to find clues; he only has to get truly physical again near the end.

What action we get — mostly chase scenes — is all PG-13 and bloodless. That matters to some people. Some of the more “gruesome” moments are cut or panned away from before we see anything, which is of greater concern to me. The shaky-cam and editing that involves a cut approximately every half second also disguises the action. It’s hard to follow who’s doing what to whom, and for most of the time it’s even harder to care.

That’s kind of the problem with a third installment. We’ve seen what Bryan Mills can do at this point. We know he’s not to be taken lightly, and now he’s out for vengeance. The villain — who is seen in the film’s first scene and then not until about 30 minutes remain in the picture — hasn’t been escalated at all. He’s not scarier or more ruthless; in fact, his beef with Mills seems more superficial than malicious. Can you already guess whether or not he manages to stop them? Of course you can.

There’s also about one plot twist too many. The plot is straightforward and so basic for most of the running time that you wonder how the filmmakers managed to stretch it out to almost take up two hours, and then when it looks like it’s about to wind down, we get a twist so that we can have one more poorly shot chase scene. You’re ready for the film to end about an hour in, and after it looks like it’s going to end 30 minutes past that point, we find out we’ve actually got another 20 minutes to go. It’s torturous.

Liam Neeson is about the only thing that’s any good in Taken 3, and like Harrison Ford in the fourth Indiana Jones movie, it feels like he’s noticeably absent from some of the more important scenes. Instead, we get to watch — through poor cinematography and choppy editing — Liam Neeson-looking stunt doubles do lots of the work. Neeson is intimidating in the segments when he has to be, and is a reliable lead, but it’s distracting to see the filmmakers try to hide the fact that he’s not doing much of the action.

Taken 3 is low point of the franchise and just a bad action movie in general. It’s shot poorly, edited without a care in the world — except to disguise how terribly it’s shot and how little of the action star Liam Neeson is actually doing — and has a story that’s too simple to justify the amount of time it takes to tell, complete with a third-act twist that only serves to extend the running time, something I can’t imagine anyone would want. This is a boring action movie that only exists because the producers thought they could milk some more money from the franchise. Hopefully this is it.

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