Movie Review: Taken 3
By Matthew Huntley
January 14, 2015

He's getting too old for this shit.

It’s hard to go into a movie called Taken 3 and not ask the following question, “Gee, what are they going to do this time?” This isn’t meant to sound smug so much as practical because, really, what can the filmmakers do? How many times can Bryan Mills’ loved ones really be taken from him, forcing him to utilize his high-tech and hand-to-hand combat skills - not to mention his inability to die, despite all the exploding cars and flying bullets - in order to rescue them?

Of course, to ask such questions would be futile, because an action franchise like Taken (or any other like it, such as Die Hard or Lethal Weapon) doesn’t rely on pragmatism or surprises, but on reliability. Odds are anyone going to see this third installment already knows what they’re getting into. And yet, with that in mind, I ask another question: what’s the fun in that? I understand familiarity and predictability can make for easy-going entertainment, but there comes a point when even a mainstream Hollywood franchise has to break its own mold and try something else before it collapses on itself.

Fortunately, Taken 3 doesn’t collapse on itself, and there are moments in it, just like in Taken and Taken 2, that are fun and exciting to watch. But also like its predecessors, there are too few of them. By now, it seems the filmmakers have all but given up pursuing new endeavors to make the series fresh and unique and have simply resorted to standard-issue genre devices to keep things moving. Although, to their credit, things do move (the movie is never exactly boring) and perhaps it’s a sign of growth that no character actually gets taken until the final act. Then again, if the idea for Taken 4 is for nobody to get taken at all, they should probably just retire the series altogether and start a new one.

As in the first two movies, ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is trying to balance his professional life as an independent bodyguard with his personal life as a father to Kim (Maggie Grace), not to mention as a potential husband to his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), who drops by to let him know of her ongoing marital problems with Stuart (Dougray Scott) and that she fantasizes about returning to Bryan. But Bryan does the honorable thing and tells her can’t proceed with any kind of relationship until she sorts things out with her current spouse.

Meanwhile, Kim, who’s now in college, discovers she’s pregnant, but luckily the screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen doesn’t make this development a major priority and spares us the would-be shocking moment when Bryan finds out he’s going to be a grandfather and then either freaks out or gets angry. It also avoids making Kim’s pleasant boyfriend the bad guy just because he knocked her up.

Not that the movie’s actual bad guys are anything special. They’re your stock, one-dimensional Russian terrorists, complete with heavy accents, branded tattoos, and an inclination to always drink and use innocent bystanders for target practice with their semi-automatic rifles. We also know who the plot’s ultimate bad guy is the moment we lay eyes on him. Like I mentioned, no surprises here.

This time around, instead of honing his skills to save either himself or his family from a kidnapping situation, Bryan must clear his name of murder. As for whose murder, I’ll let you discover, but Bryan returns from a jog one morning and finds a dead body in his bed and the LAPD shows up almost immediately to pin it on him. He of course avoids arrest, outruns the cops during a typical chase sequence, and proceeds to conduct his own research and investigation to see who’s behind it all.

Chasing him is Inspector Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), who slowly learns just who this guy is and that he’s no ordinary murder suspect, not with his highly specialized and lethal abilities. When he and Bryan exchange words for the first time, Bryan pleads for Dotzler to give him two days to find out who’s framing him, but Dotzler say he can’t do that, and vows to bring him in. Bryan’s response: “Good luck.”

Taken 3 essentially goes through all the standard motions of a routine, wrongly-accused-man picture. And, as such, it borrows heavily from the ne plus ultra of wrongly-accused-man pictures, The Fugitive, and some of the parallels between it and the latter almost seem deliberate, including an escape through a sewer tunnel.

And just like Taken and Taken 2, the movie has some really solid moments surrounded by too many ordinary ones, which is a common problem for this series. Some of the better scenes include Bryan carrying out his “rabbit hole” plan, or what he and his cohorts would do if they ever found themselves in a dire situation (like, say, being accused of murder). I liked that we continue to learn just how resourceful Bryan is and that he’s thought of everything well ahead of time. For instance, he already has an underground passageway that can be used as an escape route (just in case he ever needed one). And in a carefully conceived hideout spot underneath a warehouse, he assembles a gun from parts that are spread out all over the place in very precise locations. These scenes proved to be more interesting and believable than others, like when Bryan plugs a device into a car’s wire system to obtain its GPS history (we know it’s working because the word “Download” is perfectly legible on the display). I also liked the climax, which, if you can believe it, finds Bryan driving a Porsche onto a tarmac and colliding with a jet. We doubt anyone would actually survive such an impact, but it sure was neat to see.

But a few really solid scenes aren’t enough to sustain the entire film. Taken 3 is not a bad movie by any means, but it’s also not a necessary one. If you’re a fan of the series, there’s little reason to think you won’t at least enjoy this supposed finale, even if there isn’t whole lot in it you haven’t seen before, either from the genre itself or the first two movies. This is a Taken movie all right, but at this point, it should have really tried to be more than that.