I’ve seen it so you don’t have to: Liam Neeson’s latest addition to his modern day The Searchers franchise proves to be the cynical, money-making, watered-down, lowest-common denominator pop-corn fodder everyone said it would be.
While the first Taken had a certain brutal post-Bourne, post-Ronin style glossing it’s very xenophobic, hunter-killer, mechanical, plot, and relying on Neeson’s ruthless and chilly ex-spy, Taken 3 may be a sequel too far. Although that hasn’t prevented Fast and Slightly Peeved 27…
Taken was a surprise hit and never meant to be a franchise; an efficient 18-rated action movie – but never a thriller, as that involves some element of mystery or suspense in the plot.
Taken all too deliberately reflected US foreign policy – ‘let’s go to Europe and kill anybody shifty and foreign-looking until we find the terrorist/kidnapper/litter-bug – oh, what the hell, let’s just beat, shoot, stab and electrocute foreigners until we run out.’ Never mind at the end that there’s nobody left to steer the boat (spoiler).
The perfunctory plot involved Neeson’s Brian Mills (great name for a plumber, ideal for a retired spy, rubbish for an action hero) chasing down white slavers to get his daughter back. Taken 2 was the white slavers’ revenge. Taken 3 doesn’t appear to concern anything being taken except the leave of Forest Whitakers’ senses. Guilty, Your Honour, guilty!
Olivier Megaton (Columbiana, Transporter 3) – not so much a name as a directing choice – returns from Taken 2 to efficiently bolt together the flat-pack furniture without reading the instructions or worrying about the large number of unused pieces left over. Or using the spanner, opting instead for the largest hammer he can lay hands on, because every problem is a nail and a big hammer is his style.
Despite some cobbled-together garbage about Mills being framed for murder, it’s as empty and devoid of plot as a Renny Harlin movie, so in that tradition, it relies on shoot-outs, car chases and explosions to propel itself along. So utterly redundant is the plot as written by Luc Besson (Lucy, Lockout) and Robert Mark Kamen, I won’t waste your time summarising. This is by-the-(box office)-numbers movie-making, lacking any originality whatsoever, to the point where Die Hard 4-point-less looks like Citizen Kane.
Taken 3 plays as a genre pastiche; two parts Taken, one part Olympus Has Fallen, one part A Walk Among the Tombstones (itself a Neeson pastiche of Taken) with the sweepings off the floor of Safe House and any number of movies with posters featuring a mean-looking dude with a gun. You can see Hollywood slowly eating itself like the Midguard Serpent.
Neeson (Chloe, Narnia), the Irish giant with the face of granite and the eyes permanently about to burst into tears, stomps about with the subtlety of a Cruise missile, gruffly battering the stuntmen and any vehicle with which he has contact.
At some point his career took a wrong turn; his irredeemable junk-thriller Unknown had a sub-Hitchcock plot that was entirely known from the start, and while Neeson failed to match James Stewart as a mature Hitchcock hero, his performance was Shakespearean compared to Taken 3. If you want a really good mature action hero in a proper movie with a decent script, wind back to Wolfgang Petersen’s In the Line of Fire with Eastwood.
Neeson’s wilderness survival tale The Grey was almost a return to acting respectability, but that’s now gone. Taken 3 is back to the gravy-train, a fat check and beating up foreigners. Or any Steven Segal movie.
Taken 3 is tag-lined ‘it ends here’. Let’s hope so. Telegram for Mr Neeson: please, please. STOP. SC
Taken 3 (2015)
Director: Olivier Megaton
Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Cast: Famke Janssen, Forest Whitaker, Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace
Runtime: 109 min
Rating: PG-13 for levels of intense teenage stupidity
Genre: Action, Adventure
Related: Cold Light of Day (2012)