Director: Oliver Megaton
Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Forest Whittaker, Dougray Scott, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Sam Spruell
Plot: Bryan Mills (Neeson) finds his life crashing down around him, when his ex-wife is murdered and he is framed for it. On the run, he vows to find out who killed her.
The strange thing about the Taken series is how different each of the three movies are. The first was a straight-to-the-point action flick that used the gritty backdrop of sex trafficking to elevate it to cult level. The second abandoned the gritty realism and delivered a ‘hold-no-bars’ action that could be mistaken for an attempt at making an American version of Raid. The third and latest Taken abandons the simplicity of the first two and becomes a whodunit thriller, using America as the set-piece rather than an isolated foreign country.
I appreciate what Megaton was trying to do here. The Taken franchise must be increasingly frustrated at the fact it has unwittingly backed itself into a corner. The first film is a standalone piece, through and through, only it accidentally gave birth to a rather interesting hero, Bryan Mills. While Taken doesn’t deserve a sequel, we could argue that Bryan Mills does. The second injected a little more personality into the character and the third attempts to capitalise on that, by shaking things up with a major character death (not a spoiler, as it is shown in the trailers). Megaton tries to go down a new route and come up with a decent thriller mystery that might just take Taken out of the ‘pointless action’ category, which some may argue isn’t deserved. Therefore, audiences must come into Taken, expecting something a little slower than usual (which isn’t going down well, judging by the current one star rating on Rotten Tomatoes). As it stands, few punches are thrown for the first half of the movie and the endless gruesome deaths that the original got us, are pretty much condensed into two scenes. For most of the movie, Forest Whittaker stands in as the role of temporary villain, as the cunning detective charged with catching the ex-special forces agent who is thought to be a dangerous killer. Of course, killing cops would destroy the kind-hearted nature the writers have built up for Liam Neeson’s gentle giant character, so Megaton has little choice but to create a multi-layered mystery, instead of the beat-em-up we expected. It vaguely works, but at other times, it doesn’t. It is always fun watching Bryan Mills take on impossible odds and think his way out of situations, but the mystery isn’t as cleverly written as everyone seems to think it is.
The blame, sadly, lands with Oliver Megaton. Personally, I find his direction clumsy here. Taken 3 actually struck me as half a good movie. It aspires to be more, keeps giving Maggie Grace enough to do to stop her from falling back to helpless daughter territory and Liam Neeson is able to keep Mills from becoming as boring a hero as the media seems to like to think he is. But the movie keeps hitting bumps in the road that bring Taken 3 right back to mediocrity. I found myself enjoying the story more, because Megaton simply cannot direct action. The problem is not in the fight choreography. Knowing that Neeson is too old for anything too strenuous, Mills has always been the kind of fighter that specialises in close-quarter grapples and disarming techniques. That is fine, because I actually think that makes action movies appear more intelligent. However, Megaton wades in and over-edits these fight sequences, cutting the set-pieces up, so they come across as more complicated than they are. A car chase is baffling, as we have no idea who’s who. A simple chase across a suburb looks ridiculous, as we cut to three different frames in a second. It just looks messy and uneven, capitalising on the same mistakes Megaton made with Taken 2. Let’s assume the whole trilogy thing will be dropped and there is going to be a Taken 4. My advice: get a new director in and keep playing around with the format. We are so close to getting that decent Taken movie that everyone wants.
Final Verdict: Sadly, Taken 3 doesn’t live up to its explosives promises, but that isn’t to say that the production is a total failure.