Taken was great. Taken 2 was…not as good. When I heard that Taken 3 was going to exist, I sighed, because I knew, knew, that I’d feel obligated to finish what I started.
So, on Saturday morning, I sat with ticket in hand and prepared myself for 109 minutes of Liam Neeson stepping back into the shoes of Bryan Mills. I knew it could fall anywhere in-between great or…not as good, and I was prepared to give it a fair chance.
How’d things shake out? Let’s find out.
Director: Olivier Megaton
Release Date: January 9th, 2015
So, obviously, the whole theme of the Taken franchise is someone gets taken. In the first movie, it was Bryan Mills’ (Liam Neeson) daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). In the second film, it was Bryan himself and his ex-wife Lenny (Famke Jannsen). In the third film, there’s a variation on the theme: Lenny, on the cusp of leaving her super-rich husband for her ex-husband that lives in a tiny apartment, finds her life…taken. Bryan is framed for it and instead of reacting like a man who isn’t guilty when the cops immediately show up, he starts punching dudes and trying to find the real culprit. Meanwhile, Inspector Franck (not a typo) Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) leads the hunt for Bryan. Lots of people get punched ,some get shot, and Bryan Mills utilizes a whole lot of the skills in his particular skill set.
So, as we’ve established, this is the third movie. Neeson, Grace, and Jannsen step back into their familiar roles just fine. Whitaker is good as the inspector, and while he is largely underdeveloped, he has a few quirks that made him a little more interesting than Stock Guy Chasing the Protagonist. The best part about Taken 3 is the increased, albeit still-underutilized, presence of Bryan’s three comrades-in-arms, played by Leland Orser, Jon Gries, and Jonny Weston. I’ve been saying for years now that they need a spin-off film. It would likely be better than this film and the last combined. They’re fun characters and strike me as really interesting, despite the limited screentime they’ve received in this supposedly-finished trilogy.
I liked this film because while it had the hallmarks of the franchise (torture, wanton violence, family drama), it actually felt different. Bryan isn’t just trying to get out of a jam or find his loved one, he’s trying to solve his ex-wife’s murder while being a wanted man. There are whole stretches of film where not a single person gets shot or has a body part broken where we get to see the more nuanced (comparatively speaking) tools at Bryan’s disposal. The mystery is good, and it throws twists and turns at you up until the end of the film. They also didn’t waste the family drama subplot on something stupid like driving lessons, and while it did feel a little bit tacked on next to all the punching and shooting, it made for a nice dose of emotion.
One line I have to mention, because it got a big laugh, is from right after Bryan steals a cop’s cruiser. The cop says something to the effect of “You’ll regret this!” or whatever and Bryan looks at him and goes, “Don’t be such a pessimist,” then drives off. That right there gets a gold star from me.
I really don’t have much more to say about this film, but not because it was bad by any stretch. It was a nice change, and certainly better than the second movie, but I just feel kind of blase about the whole thing. It was everything a fan of the franchise would need, and provided a nice end to the trilogy, but it didn’t revolutionize the sub-genre of Revenge Thrillers Liam Neeson has carved out for himself.
As a third and supposedly final film, Taken 3 does its job, improves on its predecessor, and made for a good morning matinee. I enjoyed the ride all-in-all, but I think it’s time to let Bryan and Kim ride off into the sunset.
I’d still watch the hell out of that spin-off movie with Leland Orser, Jon Gries, and Jonny Weston, though.