When Taken became a surprise hit in 2008 it practically re-invented Liam Neeson’s career. Unfortunately, this also resulted in a rather ridiculous follow-up set in Istanbul, directed by the wonderfully named Olivier Megaton. He returns for Taken 3, but this time transporting the action from Europe to LA, only with the key element missing that made the franchise – someone actually being kidnapped. So with Megaton back at the helm and an over-zealous, comedic Forest Whitaker as the chief-of-police hot on Neeson’s tail, Taken 3 had the possibility of being even worse than its predecessor – and it’s not far off.
It carries on after the events of Europe, with Bryan Mills (Neeson) peacefully living his life in LA. That all changes when his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is murdered and he’s framed for the crime. He manages to evade the LAPD and attempts to track down those responsible to clear his name and avenge Lenore. Does he find them? Does he kill them? Do we care?
Let’s be honest, the only reason this film exists is to give Neeson another outing where he can take out foreign bad guys using his particular set of skills. The writers couldn’t even involve another kidnapping to tie-in the Taken aspect (or even relate it to the previous two instalments) so they instead tenuously rope in a minor character, Stuart (Dougray Scott bizarrely taking over the role from Xander Berkley despite looking nothing alike), to be a central part of the plot.
Having Whitaker as the clichéd head of law enforcement doesn’t help the quality of the film either; seemingly taking roles far too seriously, you also have to question how having him eat fresh bagels left at the crime scene and finger-dip an empty yoghurt drink directly from the bin equates to brilliant detective work.
Despite knowing that this was never going to be The Fugitive, you can argue that, as a brainless actioner, this does deliver. But like with all films that stretch the reality of situations, there are certain breaking points; it could be the unintentionally humorous moment when our hero drugs his chronically-unfortunate, pregnant daughter just so he could talk to her in a toilet cubicle. Or when he causes a spectacular motorway pileup that results in zero fatalities. Or how he magically escapes a car crashing down a cliff face and exploding, without being seen or even leaving a scratch on him. Granted, none of these scenarios are quite like throwing grenades onto rooftop buildings as in Taken 2, but you get the idea of the level of absurdity.
Taken 3 is the epitome of rinsing a franchise dry that should have ended after the original Taken. It’s stupid, banal and completely over-the-top, with the only worthwhile aspect being a middle-aged leading man. We should be thankful there’s nowhere else for this film series to go (his family members have either been taken already – twice – or now dead). And with Neeson branching out his hard-man image to more character-driven roles (A Walk Amongst the Tombstones, Run All Night), let’s hope this really is the final ride we’re taken on.