Released: January 2015
Director: Olivier Megaton
Run Time: 109 Minutes
Liam Neeson: Bryan Mills
Famke Janssen: Lenore St. John
Maggie Grace: Kim Mills
Dougray Scott: Stuart St. John
Sam Spruell: Oleg Malenkov
Leland Orser: Sam
Forest Whitaker: Frank Dotzler
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Man has a beautiful wife/ex-wife. Man leaves. Man comes back to find his wife dead. Man is framed for his wife’s murder. Man escapes law enforcement. Man encounters gangsters….need I go on? This plot device has been used in so many movies that it’s old hat. There’s nothing new about it. Each movie that deals with a man being framed for somebody’s murder ends up following the same bread crumbs. One of the best movies that features this particular plot is The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. Awesome movie, very intense and believable. Well, it was believable for the most part. It was pretty good. Action thrillers these days seem like a dime a dozen. Liam Neeson has been in a lot of action movies since Batman Begins. One of the most memorable films that he did was a little movie called Taken, where he played an ex-CIA operative who has to rescue his daughter. It was a solid action movie that really had you on the edge of your seat. The French certainly have an interesting eye for action….except Olivier Megaton.
Opening in Los Angeles, California, we see a group of mysterious men kidnap a man and take him to an office building where he encounters a Russian mobster who’s looking for money that he’s owed. Later, the ex-wife of ex-government agent Bryan Mills, Lenore visits Bryan and talks to him about the problems that she’s been having with her husband, Stuart. A day or so later, Bryan gets a visit from Stuart himself, asking Bryan to stay away from his wife. Bryan agrees. Next day, Bryan gets a text from Lenore asking to meet him for bagels. He returns to his apartment to find her dead. After eluding the police who suddenly showed up, Bryan is on the run for his life while trying to find out who killed his wife. Why Taken ended up becoming a film series is beyond me. The first film was kind of a one-and-done deal. It didn’t really leave a whole lot of room to move for a sequel, let alone two. The story in the second film makes a little bit of sense, because in the first film, Liam Neeson’s character kills the man who kidnapped and sold his daughter. So, in the second movie, the kidnapper’s father enters the fray and tracks down Bryan and HIS family to get revenge. Taken 3 throws all that out in favor of a more generic “framed for murder” action thriller, and it suffers for it. You can thank Olivier Megaton for that. Taken 3 follows very familiar territory. Yeah, the main character gets framed for murder and he’s being chased by a very persistent cop. See, the first film was a very straight-forward and simple action-thriller dealing with a very touchy subject, human trafficking. It had one direction and one basic trail to follow. But it also had a sense of urgency about it. Even the second Taken had those same qualities. But even Taken 2 was a re-hash of the original, and it wasn’t as good.
The makers of Taken 3 decided that it would be a good idea to throw Russians into the mix. Right from the get-go you already know the plot twists from a mile away and the film doesn’t disappoint in hitting every single one of them. The cast, for the most part, is spot on. Liam Neeson is fun to watch as always. Forest Whitaker is great, as a detective who is almost literally one step behind Bryan Mills. The character is pretty interesting in that he’s an OCD kind of person, he has unique quirks, and has a very good eye for detail. Whitaker is good enough to give the character some of those quirks. Leland Orser reprises his role of Sam who aided Mills in the past. I’ve always liked Orser. He’s got an interesting sense of humor and humanity that just suits his character. Sam has more involved role in this movie, so that’s refreshing. The one casting decision that I have to question is that of Dougray Scott. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a fine actor and it’s not really his fault that he falls kind of flat in this movie. No, that’s the result of some very bad writing. Unfortunately, when you cast him in a role that is pretty generic, you can expect the character to be not a very good person. Because of that, it leads to one of the most generic motivations for a bad guy….money. Making Russians the go-to bad guys of a movie is an easy fallback, especially when you really don’t have another plan. They’ve been villains for a majority of films since James Bond, and quite frankly, I’m tired of it.
The action in Taken 3 is actually pretty decent. We’ve got some pretty intense fist-fights, cool car chases and some pretty decent explosions. Pretty cool, right? It’s always fun to see Liam Neeson kicking someone’s ass left and right and shooting up the joint. It would be a lot better, though, if you could see what the hell was going on. And this is where we get to the problem of Olivier Megaton. His style of film-making is so hyper-kinetic it makes Michael Bay’s movies seem coherent. Aside from the whole shaky-cam thing that’s really freaking old and has no place in an action movie, the editing is insane. The first action sequence has Liam Neeson jumping out of a window being chased by cops. Most of the shots during this sequence don’t last more than one or two seconds. It’s like the editor went to the Michael Bay School of Editing, and injected the process with crack. The editing eases up later on, but it’s still one of the main issues in Olivier Megaton’s movies. It was present in Transporter 3, Colombiana, and Taken 2. Colombiana actually ended up being a pretty good movie as Megaton showed some restrain in that regard. He is clearly capable of making a really good action flick. So why doesn’t he?
Taken 3 isn’t a bad action movie. It really isn’t. There’s a lot to like here. Liam Neeson is still pretty good, even though he’s starting to show his age, but he doesn’t lose any of his intensity. Leland Orser’s group of security specialists are given a more significant role in this film and I think that’s fantastic. Watching Whitaker’s character follow all sorts of clues to get to the truth is pretty compelling, even though it’s kind of ridiculous. As far as threequels go, you could certainly do worse than Taken 3. While I don’t think Taken 3 was ever going to be a great movie, there a lot of fun moments, like in the second movie. It’s just a shame that Megaton’s editor is constantly on crack and making things confusing, even if the plot really isn’t. One other thing I should mention, each of the Taken movies has been release on home video with an alternate Unrated cut, which feature more action and language. Each film has pushed the PG-13 envelope. The unrated version for Taken 3 features a lot more f-bombs and blood. I’ve already made my opinion known on extended and unrated version of films. The rating I would have to give Taken 3 would be a 7/10. It’s entertaining enough, when you get past the psychotic editing. The film is utterly predictable and features some of the most generic villains I’ve ever seen. But Liam Neeson and Forest Whitaker help elevate what is otherwise a very generic action movie.