I, like so many other people, really enjoyed the first “Taken” starring Liam Neeson that first debuted in early 2008. It was tense, edgy, exciting, action packed, well performed, and engaging, “Taken” helped usher in a new era for the career of Liam Neeson as an “old man action star”. I did actually look forward to “Taken 2”. I originally thought there was a way to continue the story into a franchise (like so many other action movies have) and the revenge storyline against Neeson’s character, Bryan Mills, was a good route to go. Sadly it was not to be. I (for one) didn’t just dislike “Taken 2”, I hated it. The script was paper thin, nearly nothing happened in it, transformed our action star into a captive, rehashed the taken plot concept, the action was boring and choppy, and for some reason had a hero throwing grenades into public areas (along with many other idiotic moments). “Taken 2” was in short awful, so the only place for “Taken 3” to go was up.
Originally I thought it was going to go that way. The main trailer that was released for the film was actually pretty damn good. It seemed intense, emotional, pivotal, and “balls to the wall” action packed. I have to give a lot of compliment to the marketing team because they got me again. I truly believed “Taken 3” was going to be the redemption of a franchise but instead it’s the final nail in the coffin that for too long had taken our hopes and dreams away. “Taken 3” is plagued with horrendous writing, lazy storytelling, horribly shot and edited action sequences, and a less than satisfying finale.
After the death of Bryan Mills wife, he is wanted by the LAPD as their primary suspect. Mills goes on the run to prove his innocence. Pursued by a smart and intelligent LAPD detective, Mills has more to worry about when he discovers the death of his wife may be linked to an international terrorist organization and looks like they would like nothing more than for Bryan Mills to finally die.
When going into a “Taken” film the last thing we really expect is a good story. Why does the original “Taken” story work so well? It was simple, straight forward, surprisingly emotional, and helped serve the action of the film. “Taken 2” decided that action alone should be able to work and drive the story. “Taken 3” instead makes one key mistake, laziness. The film is marketed to look different from past installments but in reality the movie isn’t much different. The buildup is the same, note for note; some small scenes between Mills and his daughter, a scene where him and the ex-wife chat, a scene with his buddies, and then all hell breaks loose. Just replace the phone call from the first movie and replace it with discovering his dead wife and you have just about the same beginning to all three movies. Here though it’s all the more painful with dreadful conversations about pregnancy and painful dialogue.
The rest of the movie doesn’t seem to have an identity. It wants to be “The Fugitive” only this time with Liam Neeson, (yet the screenwriter doesn’t seem to know how to build the relationship between Bryan and this main LAPD detective) but then later it wants to be a brainless action film and for a decent portion of the film abandons the LAPD, then throws them back in at the end. The script is at such a level of inconsistency that when you’re watching it you’re shaking your head, not sure what they are attempting to be here.
Then, the villains are as clichéd as you get. At least in “Taken” , despite the villains being sometimes stereotypes they felt grounded and real. Here they resort back the 1980s action film with the overly heavy accented Russian bad guys who all seem to have no emotion an talk in a very exaggerated manner.
Then a big twist happens where a new villain is revealed, and it’s revealed to be the step father who killed his wife for the insurance money to get him out of debt with the Russian terrorists. Murder for insurance? Is this a bad episode of “Law and Order”? Is this a lifetime movie? Is this a silly murder mystery from the 40s? Really? The best the writers could come up with is the insurance money? First of all let’s put aside the fact that the step father being the ultimate villain is lazy and out of place with his characterization in the first film, and also put aside that he is taken down by Mills in all of two seconds, but there is a reason why comedy writers like to make fun of “the insurance money death”, because it’s stupid and played out. Yet for the third film in a well established action franchise (that’s first film used a real life issue plaguing the world in sex trade operations) the screenwriter thought it’d be best to go the route of “insurance death”? Really? This is the definition of lazy and clichéd.
But hey, as long as the action is entertaining most can be forgiven. The trouble is the studio decided to bring back Oliver Megaton from “Taken 2”. This is some of the worst shot and edited action sequences I have seen in a long time. How does this man have a career? An example of this being there was a hand to hand fight scene that all I could see was an up close shot someone’s arms swinging in the air. A camera shaking while only seeing someone’s arms and not any of the action is disorienting and technically low.
Megaton also insists on editing the hell out of the scene, showing every split second detail, jump cutting between people punching one another, someone falling, breaking objects, and someone’s nail falling off (okay that didn’t happen, just speaking hyperbole there). He never lets the eyes feast on one glorious action moment because he chops them up and makes it nearly impossible to follow. Very rarely can “shaky cam” actually add to the scene and make help the action. One of the first things you learn when you take a photography class (never mind filmmaking for a second) is framing a shot properly. This is such a basic skill to have but it’s vital if someone wants to good at their craft. Megaton can’t frame his action or his shots. It’s amazing he still gets work as a big time film director when YouTube videos have less jump cuts and bad editing than he does.
I don’t like being too negative with a film but here there isn’t much for me to celebrate. This film at points had me angry and frustrated when watching it instead of being thrilled and engaged. I truly thought the trailer looked excellent and I genuinely looked forward to the release of this film. Sadly this is how franchises go to die and “Taken 3” destroys all that was left with a once promising franchise.