×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Taken 3’

The third and presumably final installment of the Liam Neeson action franchise is a mind-numbing, crash-bang misfire.

With:
Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, Al Sapienza. (English, Russian dialogue)
Release Date:
Jan 1, 2015

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2446042/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Running out of kidnapped relatives for Liam Neeson’s ex-CIA killing machine to rescue, scribes Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen turn him into a fugitive framed for murder in “Taken 3,” a mind-numbing, crash-bang misfire that abandons chic European capitals for the character’s own backyard. French director Olivier Megaton, who at least paced “Taken 2” with workmanlike efficiency, executes the pedestrian plot without a shred of tension or finesse. Opening in Hong Kong on New Year’s Day, a week ahead of its U.S. bow, the Fox release will draw crowds simply because it’s supposedly the last installment of the lucrative franchise, but they’ll just be hostages to tedium.

In “Taken” (2008), helmed by Pierre Morel, Neeson’s Los Angeles-based Bryan Mills went after Albanian slave traders who kidnapped his 17-year-old daughter in Paris. Made as a low-budget B-movie that sent up U.S. politics and values even as it emulated American genre films, it grossed $227 million worldwide. The sequel, made four years later, reversed the pattern by having the Albanians’ vengeful relatives kidnap Mills and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen). Despite the more elaborate action setpieces and heightened casualties, the premise remained just as basic and clear: The shocking way in which the hostages are taken, and the methodical manner in which the retired CIA agent tracked them, generated tremendous excitement.

Without someone to save, the concept of a race against time is seriously weakened. While family matters were kept short and sweet in the other two installments, “Taken 3” stretches out the kitchen-sink drama endlessly: Mills’ daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who was 17 when she was first kidnapped, is now a college student facing serious adult problems. Her dad, however, still believes that, after having hurled a few hand grenades and driven a stolen car through a shower of bullets, she’d still be content to play with a stuffed panda on her birthday.

Equally troubled is Lenore, who seeks consolation as her marriage to filthy-rich Stuart (Dougray Scott) is on the rocks. The possibility of Lenore and Mills rekindling their relationship is put on hold, however, when he’s forced to go on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. As he said to Lenore in the previous film: “I’ll be OK. It’s the people following me who’re gonna have a problem.”

Given that Mills walked away Scot-free from double-figure body counts in Europe, watching him evade arrest by Inspector Frank Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) doesn’t yield much in terms of suspense or surprises. Mills describes Dotzler as “very clever,” though the latter’s theory that anyone who buys warm bagels can’t be a cold-blooded killer ranks among the more illogical police deductions in recent memory. Elsewhere, detecting and blocking each other’s tracking devices is pretty much the extent of their mental sparring.

One of the series’ talking points has been its extremely negative portrayal of Albanians; “Taken 2” closed on a note suggesting the the blood feud would live on, and it would have made sense here for it to continue here, or for Mills to finally set foot in the hermit country. Alas, those characters have been ditched in favor of Russian mafiosos, who come across as pale imitations of the tattooed fiends in David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises.”

What has made the “Taken” franchise such a guilty pleasure so far is its take-no-prisoners stance toward bad guys and its no-holds-barred brutality, especially coming from Neeson, an actor who radiates gravitas and nobility no matter what. Although less graphic in its representation of violence than its predecessors, “Taken 3” retains a gutsy realism in scenes where Mills matter-of-factly cracks bones and splatters brains, and the shoot-’em-ups, car wrecks and explosions are noisier and more bombastic than ever. They’re also unimaginatively choreographed, with zero forward momentum. Even as the scale of each production has increased, the scope of the action has diminished: Compared with scattering hand grenades all over Istanbul, it’s mere child’s play for Mills to blow up a classroom at Kim’s college.

Without a doubt, the first “Taken” movie gave Neeson, then in his 50s, a new lease on life as an action hero. Now 62, the actor still has an imposing presence, but more often than not, he looks pretty beat and impatient to get things over with. Kim has evolved from an exasperatingly clueless brat to a feisty rescuer over two films, but there isn’t any real progression in character development or in Grace’s performance here.

Stuart, a slimy wimp as played by Xander Berkeley in the first “Taken,” served as a neat foil for our straight-talking, straight-shooting hero. Replaced here by Scott, he behaves like a badass dude who is supposed to be Mills’ equal in gun-toting prowess; it’s a wholly unconvincing transformation. As Russian mafioso Malankov, Sam Spruell behaves like a cardboard James Bond villain, showing some vicious individuality only in the action scenes.

Tech credits are serviceable if creatively impoverished. The L.A. locations recall countless images of the city caught onscreen, with lenser Eric Kress frequently using panoramic and helicopter shots of the city’s skyline as visual crutches. Nathaniel Mechaly’s ubiquitous score borders on schmaltzy.

Film Review: ‘Taken 3’

Reviewed at AMC Pacific Place, Hong Kong, Dec. 31, 2014. Running time: 118 MIN.

Production: (U.S.-France) A 20th Century Fox (in U.S.) release, presented with Europacorp, of a Europacorp, Canal Plus, M6 Films production, in association with TSG Entertainment. Produced by Luc Besson.

Crew: Directed by Olivier Megaton. Screenplay, Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Eric Kress; editors, Audrey Simonaud, Nicolas Trembasiewicz; music, Nathaniel Mechaly; production designer, Sebastian Inizan; art directors, Nanci Roberts; set decorator, Linda Spheeris; costume designer, Olivier Beriot; sound (Dolby Digital), Stephanie Bucher, Frederic Dubois; re-recording mixer, Bucher; special effects supervisor, Philippe Hubin; special effects, Big Bang; visual effects supervisors, Simon Descamps, Paul Briault; visual effects, Digital Factory, MacGuff, Exlair, Fotokem; stunt coordinator, Mark Vanselow; fight choreographer, Alain Figlarz; line producer, Michael Mandaville; assistant directors, Trent Dempsey, Ludovic Bernard; casting, John Papsidera.

With: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Forest Whitaker, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, Al Sapienza. (English, Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • 'Changing the Game' Documentary

    Watch the First Trailer for Trans Documentary 'Changing the Game' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Another hurdle for trans rights could quite literally be the track and field hurdle. Transgender student athletes are put in the spotlight in the forthcoming documentary “Changing the Game,” set to premiere at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Variety has the world premiere of the doc’s first teaser trailer, which gives an in-depth look into the [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Box Office

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Conjures $2.8 Million on Thursday Night

    “The Curse of La Llorona,” the latest entry in Warner Bros. and New Line’s “Conjuring” universe, conjured $2.75 million from Thursday preview showings, while “Breakthrough,” a faith-based offering from Fox-Disney, brought in $1.5 million from its second day of screenings. “La Llorona’s” haul tops recent horror counterparts “Pet Sematary” and “Escape Room,” which each took [...]

  • Chinese Films Make the Cannes Lineup,

    Cannes: Chinese Films Make the Lineup, but Will They Make It to France?

    Cannes has chosen two mainland Chinese titles for its official selection: Diao Yinan’s “Wild Goose Lake,” in competition, and Zu Feng’s “Summer of Changsha,” for Un Certain Regard. Both films appear to have received the necessary official approvals from Chinese authorities to premiere overseas. But their journey to the Cote d’Azur is by no means [...]

  • Festival director Thierry Fremaux speaks to

    Cannes: Thierry Fremaux on the Lineup's Record Number of Female Directors, American Cinema and Political Films

    The Cannes Film Festival has unveiled a lineup for its 72nd edition that includes some high-profile Hollywood titles, genre movies and films from 13 female directors. The official selection has been applauded by many for mixing established auteurs like Pedro Almodovar (“Pain and Glory”), Terrence Malick (“A Hidden Life”) and Xavier Dolan (“Matthias and Maxime”) [...]

  • RUDOLF NUREYEV 1961

    Film Review: 'Nureyev'

    It would be absurd to say that Rudolf Nureyev lived, or danced, in anyone’s shadow. He was a man who leapt and twirled and flew onstage, all muscle but light as a feather, with a freedom and force that reconfigured the human spirit. There’s no denying, though, that over the last few decades, and especially [...]

  • Die Kinder Der Toten review

    Film Review: 'Die Kinder Der Toten'

    The hills are alive (or rather, undead), with the sound of music (also mastication and the moaning of zombies) in Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska’s experimental, dialogue-free, home-movie-style riff on Elfriede Jelinek’s “Die Kinder Der Toten” (The Children of the Dead). A seminal text in Jelinek’s native Austria, the 1995 book has never been translated [...]

  • Idol review

    Film Review: 'Idol'

    How many twists can a plot undergo before it snaps? This, more than any of the many political, moral and personal conundrums that snake through “Idol,” seems to be the question writer-director Lee Su-jin is most interested in posing with his extravagantly incomprehensible sophomore feature. A seedy political thriller by way of grisly revenge movie [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content