ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Following the events of Taken 2, the Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his family are once again caught up in some drama. Daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) is unexpectedly pregnant and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is falling out of love with her second husband Stuart St. John (Dougray Scott) and reconciling with Bryan. However, the reconciliation is tragically cut short when Lenore is brutally murdered (it’s in the trailers, so it’s not a spoiler), and Bryan himself is framed for the crime.

Determined to clear himself of all wrongdoing, Bryan must once again use his “particular set of skills” to track down the real killers and protect his daughter, all while evading the manhunt started by Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker).

Here we are, readers, that annual time of year where Liam Neeson once again shows us just how absolutely terrifying he really can be, even at 62 years of age (there was even a trailer for another Neeson kicks ass film, due out in a couple months, prior to this movie). To those that have read previous Neeson film reviews on here, you already know I thought the first Taken was just okay, but overall a middle of the road thriller that got lucky enough to have a great performance from Neeson in it. I certainly didn’t think this merited a franchise, and that feeling was further cemented in upon seeing the horrendous sequel, Taken 2.

Yes, the film that showed us teaching your daughter how to throw grenades in the middle of a Turkish city is just as carefree and easy as setting up a Facebook page.

Regardless, both films made 20th Century Fox a ton of money, so we’re getting a third film one way or another. And don’t let the “IT ENDS HERE” tagline fool you. They set this up for a fourth as well.

Taken 3 is exactly what you expect in a Taken film, nothing more and nothing less. There are no surprises; it’s a by the numbers thriller that hits every predictable beat that it needs to. The one aspect that differentiates this film from its two predecessors, aside from the story now taking place in America, is that no one’s getting taken; in fact, this should’ve been called The Fugitive 2. Returning to the fold once again is Taken 2 director Olivier Megaton and franchise creator Luc Besson. Both never take advantage of their “wronged man” narrative, a plot device that certainly isn’t new but carries enough promise if put in the right hands, opting for the same tired action sequences where Neeson defies death in ways that take a greater leap of imagination than anything John McClane’s managed to survive and two character twists that are both able to be seen from miles away.

Once we reach the midpoint of the film, the cops and their investigation of Bryan are exposed as the MacGuffins they really are. There’s hardly any focus on Bryan’s struggle to clear his name, and it’s hard for us to root for him to prove his innocence when the film places very little importance on that matter. Eventually, the entire police investigation takes a backseat to Neeson kicking some bad guy ass ’cause – well, sure, why not?

Of course, all of this could be forgiven if Megaton delivered some excitement. I mean, who goes to a Taken film to see Neeson channel Oskar Schindler once again? Yet Megaton and editors Audrey Simonaud and Nicolas Trembasiewicz divvy up each action segment into what looks like a hundred different, incoherent shots. Every now and then, an inspired bit of action shows up on display, but then were back to more cutting room techniques to hide the fact that Neeson and his stunt double are, in fact, two different people.

Tony Scott on speedball couldn’t come up with anything this frenetic even if he tried.

In the end, is this as bad as Taken 2? Well, no, but then again, Liam Neeson eating lunch for two hours would’ve been a better film. If there’s any redeeming factor here, it’s obviously Liam Neeson. He’s clearly in paycheck mode (the chemistry between him and Famke Janssen seems to have disappeared, but he does have an entertaining waterboarding scene), but as much as I would like to see him tap into the many other strengths he has as an actor, he’s good at what he does here. Also, despite the fact that the law enforcement characters are gradually reduced to irrelevance over the course of the film, Forest Whitaker lends enough gravitas to elevate his stock character.

That said, their performances are the equivalent of adding fancy decorations to a worn out Christmas tree.

Taken 3 may benefit a little from the type of committed acting we expect from both Liam Neeson and Forest Whitaker, but is overall just a watered-down version of the franchise that tries to be as brutal and gritty as PG-13 can allow them to be. The fault of this film really isn’t the rating, though, but more the choppily edited action sequences and formulaic story that, while enjoyable at times, doesn’t develop that much tension. It’s certainly a given that this is an improvement over Taken 2, nevertheless I’m still thinking it’s time for Mr. Mills to finally retire his particular set of skills.

I give Taken 3 a C- (★★).

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