The fact that the phrase ˜the Taken franchise’ is a truth in the film industry is possibly the most baffling thing in recent movie memory. The first Taken film was a standalone story; an ex-secret agent’s daughter gets kidnapped by a ring of Albanian human traffickers, and so he goes on a crusade to shoot some bad guys, torture some bad guys, and pretty much murder half of Paris. It’s a schlocky, B-movie premise, but the film basically knew that and ran with its absurdity. It’s that level of knowing self-awareness but lack of smugness that made Taken such an unexpected hit, and that film that launched Liam Neeson’s admittedly disappointing career as an action star.
At any rate, it wasn’t a story that could in any way have a sequel without being painfully contrived. Lo and behold, Taken 2 was a painfully contrived and pointless sequel that took the edgy, gritty, and violent Taken and neutered it to make it a 12A rated, generic mess. Now with Taken 3 (or Tak3n, as the abysmal marketing puts it), it’s clear how little juice this franchise ever had in it.
Taken 3 once again focuses on Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), who is close to getting back together with his wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), and is slowly mending his relationship with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). However, disaster strikes as Lenore is murdered, and Bryan is framed. Now he’s on the run from the police, headed up by Detective Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), who is adamant to find him and bring him in.
What you may notice about that plot synopsis is that no one appears to be the titular ˜taken’ party. In the first it was his daughter, in the second it was both Bryan himself and his ex-wife, and now it’s no one, unless you count murder as someone being ˜taken’. Really, this is just one of the many, many red flags that show how little this franchise is being taken seriously by anyone involved in its production.
Luc Besson returns to co-write and produce, and the was a small glimmer of hope for Taken 3, as Besson’s previous film released was Lucy, which ended up being fantastic. However, this is a far cry from that absurd but creative Besson, as Taken 3 is as hackneyed and pointless, perhaps even more so, than Taken 2.
The 12A rating hampers the film to the point of incoherence, as the desperate attempt at keeping the violence clean means that editing is some of the worst in an action film in a decade. Editing should slip by unnoticed in an action film, but the speed of the cuts make what’s actually going on impossible to decipher. You end up speed reading the film, only mentally picking out the shots that last more than a nanosecond, which means crucial information gets lost in the shuffle, making the end product a giant, sludgy mess of incomprehensible action and noise.
Even Liam Neeson, normally reliable for making bad films watchable, falls short here. He barely registers an emotion beyond sneering determination, which makes the ˜emotional’ scenes with his family incredibly awkward and sometimes unintentionally funny. Even Forest Whitaker (amazingly the second nominee for the Best Actor Oscar to star in this film) disappoints, desperately trying to make his character seem dynamic and interesting by giving him odd idiosyncrasies like playing with rubber bands.
And really, that’s the word to describe the entirety of Taken 3: desperate. The filmmakers needed to call it quits with the first film, but have insisted on making more of these terrible films and people insist on continuing to pay money to see them.