The rugged and feisty Liam Neeson (as on-screen alter ego ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills) is back in fighting form for a third and supposedly final go-around in ‘Taken 3′. This tired and tepid action-packed crime thriller is directed by French filmmaker Olivier Megaton (‘Taken 2’, ‘Transporter 3’) with screenwriting credits attributed to ‘Taken’ producer Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Clearly Neeson and company want to squeeze the remaining strained juices out of the ‘Taken’ film franchise as this movie series trilogy ends on an exhausting whimper. Uninspired, toothless and motoring on empty impishness, ‘Taken 3′ has run its kinetic course for the aging Neeson to aim, shoot and take down some serious repetitive butt-kicking numbers.
After the last two energising instalments where flashy foreign locales were a major part of the appealing ‘Taken’ universe, ‘Taken 3′ is reduced to unraveling in the uneventful backyard of familiar Los Angeles that definitely lacks the exotic excitement and visual vitality that were previously showcased in posh landscapes such as Paris and Istanbul. In fact, star Neeson reportedly nixed the idea to partake in the ‘Taken 3′ production if there was another concept of kidnapping involved. Huh? Why avoid the element of kidnapping when in fact it was the soundly running gimmick that made the ‘Taken’ experience palpable and pulsating? Still, this is the least of ‘Taken 3’s bothersome problems as the movie delves in the manufactured mockery involving cliched car chases, sketchy gunplay and the inclusion of countless Russian mobsters parading about in obligatory fashion. Importantly, even Neeson seems quite disengaged as his robotic Bryan Mills goes through the motions trying to find some upside in the forced upbeat shenanigans that seem to trudge along scene after scene.
The very first outing in ‘Taken’ took audiences by surprised as it featured a matured Neeson as an avenging former CIA human weapon Mills committed to his fatherly duties in manhandling the Albanian human traffickers that dared to abscond his teen daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). In ‘Taken 2′, the hostile adversaries want Mills’s head on a platter after he tore up their territory in his crusade to rescue his precious offspring from the opportunistic ruffians. Now Mills finds his neck on the line in the connection with his ex-wife Lenore’s (Famke Janssen) brutal murder. Look out LA…the harried Bryan Mills is out in survival mode. The question remains: whose blood will be spilled in the process?
Prior to Lenore’s senseless demise, she had visited her ex-hubby Bryan and the feelings between the former spouses are still strong. Mills still carries an emotional torch for Lenore but he cannot act upon his affections for her. Poor Lenore is trapped in her current unhappy marriage with an insufferable moneybags misfit Stuart St. John (Dougray Scott). In the aftermath of Lenore’s death, the distraught and beleaguered Mills finds out the trouble that he is embroiled in so convincingly. As a result of his former lover’s slaughtering Bryan Mills is reeling with outrage. Yes, folks, it appears that Mills is on the run and must prove his innocence and bring to the forefront the murderers that butchered Lenore. Mills has on his mind the need to protect his exposed college-aged daughter Kim from potential harm as well.
In the meanwhile, the LAPD lead investigator in Franck Doltzer (Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, ‘The King Of Scotland’) must track down the defiant Mills and make some sense out of the Lenore Mills St. John slaying. Mills proves to be elusive and crafty as usual while leaving behind his trademark trashing of battered bodies and bouncing bullets in the chaotic southern California streets.
Seemingly, the catchy novelty act of a hulking middle-aged Neeson exploding at the seams in action-oriented fashion resonated with glorious forethought. After all, ‘Taken’ single-handily resurrected Neeson’s box office cred and made him a cinematic hipster to the young folks and his aged contemporaries alike. However, the third time is not the charm in revisiting the gun-toting ‘grandpa’. Sadly, ‘Taken 3′ is mindlessly played out as Neeson’s Mills or the handlers behind this hollow hedonistic actioner have dipped their toes in an empty well of ideas to conclude this three-part crime caper.
Let’s face facts…we all were ‘Taken’ in by this pseudo punchy action yarn that no longer generates the destructive heat it once punctuated with carefree confidence.
Taken 3 (2015)
29th Century Fox
1 hr. 49 mins.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Famke Jannssen, Maggie Grace and Dougray Scott
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Genre: Action and Adventure/Crime thriller/Mystery and Suspense
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of four stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2015