Walking out of my screening of Taken 3 a publicist asked me, “So what did you think?” I was kind and said, “It’s not very good at all.” She replied, “Why was it not good?” I understand she was just doing her job, studios like to get notes from critics walking out of movies. I don’t know what they do with them, the movie has already been made, early Thursday screenings of the film were probably already taking place as she asked and I doubt they were going to attempt any reshoots or edits based on my thoughts. But they must do something with them because they always ask.
Now, to the question, Why was Taken 3 not any good? To be honest, I don’t even think it’s a question that should be asked. The proper reply is to ask, “Did you watch the movie?” Because if you saw with your own eyes what I saw I’d hope you’d already know the answer, but since you asked…
Taken 3 finds Liam Neeson back in the role as Bryan Mills. He and his special skills have already gone to hell and back overseas, dispatching sex traffickers, kidnappers and any nefarious characters that stood in his way. When we last left him he was killing an Albanian mobster who vouched his sons would avenge his death, which would seem to be the likely scenario for this sequel to pick up on. Screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have something else in mind and it will turn the seemingly well-trained Bryan Mills into an indestructible, doddering, geriatric cyborg.
Mills survives no fewer than two massive explosions and manages to dodge close to 1,000 bullets as he hobbles through Taken 3, a film with absolutely zero consequences both narratively and literally. The story revolves around Mills’ ex-wife (Famke Janssen) being killed, he’s set up for the murder and instead of cooperating with the police he runs, assaulting two police officers in the process.
On the case is Detective Franck Dotzler (Forrest Whitaker), a man that loves to carry around a chess piece, snap rubber bands and eat evidence at crime scenes. He’s quick to realize Mills will always be two steps ahead of him, but not quick enough to keep his team in the loop as they try and hunt Mills down in the midst of the carnage he’s about to inflict on the city of Los Angeles.
While attempting to clear his name, Mills destroys about a mile long stretch of highway, assaults several police officers, most likely kills at least a couple of innocent bystanders in the process, does kill several Russian mobsters, illegally downloads police files and coerces his daughter (Maggie Grace) in obstructing a police investigation. Okay, that last one is a stretch since these police are more like Barney Fife than Crockett and Tubbs, but the key here is nothing matters.
You can almost see the ticking clock start at the beginning of each scene. Continuous hackneyed music cues tip you off as to whether this will be a taut next five minutes or just a casual, horribly shot diner conversation and this begins with the credits that provide helicopter shots of nighttime Los Angeles as names bounce around the screen… cut to… daytime. Huh? What, what was with all the nighttime stuff? Was that just to showcase the song? If this sounds like nitpicking, it’s not. I’d say the first ten opening scenes all play incongruous to one another. Cut from here, go to there, start a new, completely unrelated conversation and now, here’s Mills attempting to go for a jog, which leads to…
Liam Neeson is finally too old for this shit. Oh man. Director Olivier Megaton was never a prolific auteur to begin with, but he has done the 62-year-old Neeson no favors here. Several times Mills is supposed to be seen running, or at least we’re to be understood he’s running, but it appears as if he can hardly move and these scenes bookend one of the worst shot foot chases ever captured on film. The editing is a complete nightmare, as is Eric Kress‘ cinematography as he can’t even seem to capture a conversation between Mills and his daughter in a diner without 10 different angles, one of which has a wall cutting off the lower-third of the shot. And don’t get me started on his attempts to capture action.
The tagline in the marketing reads “It Ends Here”, but considering this film has nothing to do with the first two is this just more a reassurance for the audience rather than a plot hint? In that case, thank you, thank you for ending it here, though I’m not sure why you felt the need to even tell this story because it doesn’t necessarily offer any closure to Mills’ narrative. There are still Albanians that will be seeking revenge and by the film’s end there isn’t even any concern for one of Mills’ friends who takes a gun shot to the torso and, presumably… lived?
I remember about a month back I tried to watch the television spin-off “Transporter: The Series“. I lasted about ten minutes, don’t watch it, it’s terrible. But I mention this because Robert Mark Kamen also wrote that series and as Taken 3 was getting underway the stench of those ten minutes was all over this thing to the point I even said to myself, “This is like that ‘Transporter’ show.” Taken 3 plays like just one more episode in a soon-to-be-cancelled, shitty show.
It’s the final episode in a series that had it’s last gasp a long time ago to the point the PG-13 rating sought is so blatant you can see a character mouth the word “fucking” but what the audience hears is “screwing”. No one cared. No one. Neeson cashed the check and good on him for that. If they want to continue making these things they better pay you, but next time… Liam… at least ask them for a Rascal scooter to help you get around, because the running is a bit embarrassing.