20th Century Fox/EuropaCorp Distribution
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Produced by Luc Besson
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
TAKEN 3 is a perfect example of why I turn my hearing off when I hear whining about spoilers. If you’ve seen the trailers for it (and don’t you dare say that you haven’t) then you know that the murder of Famke Janssen’s character Lenore and the framing of her ex-husband Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) for that murder is what sets the plot in motion. That’s actually the only surprising thing that happens in TAKEN 3 and it was spoiled in the trailer. So don’t flood me with emails screaming; “Spoilers!” because not only TAKEN 3 but 90% of movie trailers are nothing but spoilers and if you’re going to gnash your teeth and wail about them, then direct the wailing and gnashing at the studios who put the trailers together.
Why did I lead off with that mini-editorial? Because the plot of TAKEN 3 is so slight and slim that I figured I have enough wordage to veer off into a digression and still have plenty of wordage left over. And it is a slim plot. Lenora is murdered, Bryan is framed and he spends most of the movie staying one step ahead of the LAPD, led by Inspector Dotzler (Forrest Whittaker) who mistakenly believes Bryan killed his ex-wife. The police are also keeping an eye on Bryan’s daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and Lenore’s husband, Stuart St. John (Dougray Scott) Kim of course knows that her father didn’t kill her mother and acts as Bryan’s inside man, keeping tabs on what the cops are doing. Bryan rounds up his three golf buddies for backup, all of whom we’ve seen in the previous two movies. All are ex-CIA Special Ops who now run their own security firm. So they have access to high-tech weaponry, computers and gadgets they are more than happy to loan out to Bryan. So it’s pretty clear that the LAPD is outmatched right from jump street.
It’s not that TAKEN 3 is a bad movie. It’s professionally made and by this time Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace have got their characters down so well that they seem more than ever like father and daughter. And I liked that Lenore’s death has real resonance for the characters and they’re allowed to have moments of emotional impact as they deal with how she died. In most of these revenge driven thrillers, the poor dead soul whose demise is the reason for all the subsequent mayhem is totally forgotten about halfway through the movie. Not here. Both Bryan and Kim have moments separately and together where they get the chance to react to Lenore’s murder. As always, TAKEN 3, like it’s two older brothers benefits greatly from the performance of Liam Neeson. Getting an actor who actually can act was the smartest move of this franchise. He elevates the material and gives it more gravitas than such a thin story deserves.
If there is one actual thing I didn’t like about the movie is that it takes place in Los Angeles. The first two “Taken” movies were filmed in France and Istanbul and for me, thrillers filmed in Europe seem to have extra weight to them, more meat on the bones. Having this one filmed in L.A. just makes it look like another cookie-cutter action movie. For me, what made the “Taken” movies different from other action movies were their exotic locations and that in each movie there was somebody kidnapped that Bryan Mills had to rescue. Allegedly, Liam Neeson agreed to do TAKEN 3 only if there was no kidnapping involved. As a result what we’ve got is a pretty standard action movie that reminded me of half a dozen other movies. This is supposed to be the last “Taken” movie and on one hand that’s really a shame as TAKEN 3 ends the series on a definite whimper and not a bang. On the other hand, this frees up Liam Neeson to bring his Bryan Mills character to the next “Expendables” movie.
So should you see TAKEN 3? You won’t be wasting your time if you’ve got a couple hours to kill and can see this for matinee prices. But don’t feel you’ve got to rush out and see it. It’s always good to see Liam Neeson in action hero mode but TAKEN 3 can be enjoyed in your own home when it comes to Netflix if you prefer to wait.