The one downside to being an action star is that sometimes a franchise starts with tons of potential and winds up being vapid repeats of the first. That’s exactly what Taken 3 winds up being: an inept final that follows an inept sequel to a brilliant opening gambit of a film.
Brian Mills (Liam Neeson) is now in an interesting place in life. He’s doing various security jobs with his old CIA pals while trying to be a good father to his college student daughter (Maggie Grace). His friendship with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) is now bringing back good memories for the two, much to the consternation of her second husband (Dougray Scott). When Brian comes home to her dead in his apartment, and the cops already showing up, he knows he’s in the middle of a fairly elaborate frame job. Going on the run, Brian is now being hunted by a detective (Forest Whitaker) and has to clear his name. Things aren’t what they seem, of course, as Brian has to once again use his skills honed in years as a spook to try and evade capture while proving his innocence.
Taking a similar approach to the first two films in the franchise, Taken 3 is being positioned as the finale of the franchise and for good reason. This is stretching the premise of the first two films to encompass a generic action film as opposed to “Liam Neeson tears up a foreign city to rescue a family member” that the franchise started out with. By placing the violence in a domestic setting, and killing off a major cast member to set it up, Taken 3 is trying to up the stakes by making this change. No more is it the risk of someone dying after being kidnapped. Now someone is dead and potentially another major character (Grace) could join her.
It’s an interesting gamble but one that doesn’t pay off because this a film franchise that ran out of steam midway through the second film. This isn’t quite beating a dead horse in terms of film making … but it’s not far from it.
The key starts with Liam Neeson, who didn’t have to make this film but did so for what one imagines was a substantial paycheck. And that’s what this film feels like; him cashing in and doing just enough to make look like he sort of kind of cared about making this film. This is genre work, so Neeson isn’t blatantly sleep walking through it, but he doesn’t add much back into the character that we haven’t seen before. He’s a good enough leading man that most of the material he’s given is far below his talents, of course, but he doesn’t do anything that gives Brian Mills any more depth than what he’s already given in two prior films. Outside of a quick moment to mourn his ex-wife, and the great love of his life, Brian Mills has either “nice father” mode or “Kill everything in sight” mode and nothing more.
The film itself doesn’t have anything in it that we haven’t seen before in the franchise, either. The first two films were at least able to give us a sense of danger, that perhaps Brian could fail. Taken 3 doesn’t have that sense of danger anymore. Nothing that occurs during it gives us any sense that Brian could potentially die or fail in his mission; it’s only a matter of time in this film and that’s a substantial problem. There’s no element of danger, something the first two films had in abundance.
If this is the last film in the franchise, and the film’s opening weekend box office seems to make one think that there’ll be a Taken 4, then this is about as lackluster an exit as it could’ve made.
Director: Olivier Megaton Writer: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen Notable Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Famke Janssen
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.