Taken 3, 2015.
Directed by Olivier Megaton.
Starring Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace.
After Bryan Mills is framed for murder, he goes off the grid to track down the true killer. He will find them, he will – oh hell, you know the drill by now.
“You’re always saying I’m so predictable,” Liam Neeson’s ex-special-forces-agent-turned-family-kidnapping-avenger Bryan Mills gruffly complains to his daughter on her doorstep. “So I thought I’d do something unpredictable.”
This line comes in the movie’s opening ten minutes, as Mills surprises Kim (Maggie Grace) with a 3-day early birthday celebration. It’s difficult to know if the movie is intentionally commenting on its own franchise (‘3-days’ = ‘third movie’, ‘so predictable’ = ‘the same kidnapping plot over and over again’). The filmmaking doesn’t appear to be meta enough for dialogue this tongue-in-cheek, and even if it was, Taken 3 doesn’t bother to avoid those ‘predictable’ criticisms.
The marketing will try to make you think so. Mills isn’t the one being kidnapped this time (Taken 2), and neither is his daughter (Taken). Instead, the latest instalment is all about Mills being framed for murder, and then tracking down the true killer. Sure, the actual ‘kidnapping’ element is gone, but that was only ever the Taken franchise’s window dressing. It’s pure motive is – as many drunken Liam Neeson impressionists know by heart – finding someone and killing them.
What this does mean, though, is the movie’s focus is back on the Mills character. That’s where Taken 2 fell so terribly short – positioning Kim as the plot’s focus. Taken 3 has far more Neeson in it, and his weirdly nice bunch of ex-special-forces buddies to boot.
Rather than abroad like its two predecessors, the entire movie takes place in the States. This is an attack on Mills’ family and home, and it’s nice to see him kicking ass in an environment so familiar to him. It has a ‘THIS IS MY OPERATING TABLE’ Dark Knight Returns vibe to it. Mills even has a kinda Batcave to retreat to and a few of the stealth scenes recalls rooms in Batman’s Arkham video game series.
The script is achingly bad, the dialogue clunky and the characters one-dimensional. What’s particularly bizarre is how awful Neeson and Famke Jannsen’s (Lenore) scenes are together, and how poorly drawn Forest Whitaker’s cop-on-the-trail Franck Doltzer is – all three of them being exceptional actors. It’s as though Olivier Megaton used the first take, before any blocking or emotional beats were mapped out. But few are paying to see Taken 3 for the tale of a divorced couple slowly repairing their relationship. They’re paying to see Liam Neeson spin his car into the front wheel of a plane.
And Taken 3 does that stuff pretty darn well. It takes a while (50 minutes, to be precise) for the film to get properly going, but once the momentum starts, the final reel is a non-stop tour down broken arm lane and punctured trachea boulevard. As generic as the movie is – and some moments are so generic – you find yourself slowly being absorbed, silently wooping for Mills taking down yet another henchmen.
Ultimately, it’s the character who is the draw. Neeson’s other experiments in action cinema (A Walk Amongst The Tombstones, Non-Stop) haven’t particularly set the box office alight. The Taken franchise has (so far). It’s the way Mills gets punched as much as he punches, and pants and coughs after sprinting away. There’s a grizzled fatigue to him, one in tone with the out-of-retirement trope captured in Unforgiven.
Much, much better than Taken 2 (but what isn’t?), but doesn’t even touch the original. But, with a side of beer and pizza, you could do much worse.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Oliver Davis is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors. You can follow him on Twitter (@OliDavis)
Watch our EXCLUSIVE interview with Oliver Megaton talking Taken 3 using the player below: