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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Taken 3 movie review: give it back

Taken 3 red light

This is a movie as its own death wish. To call it cheap, lazy, and perfunctory grants it a dignity that implies there was another path it could have taken.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): not a fan of the franchise

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I figure French fauxteur Olivier Megaton (Taken 2, Colombiana) jumped his own shark when he chose that nom de cinema, but if not, he’s definitely done it now with Taken 3. It wouldn’t be fair to call this a movie: it’s more a phony, forced assemblage of stilted dialogue, incoherent action sequences, inexplicably sociopathic behavior on the part of its supposedly sympathetic protagonist, and bad self-referential “jokes” about the many idiocies of the franchise it has now, we can hope, killed for good. This is a movie as its own death wish. The only explanation for its existence is so that you can hurl disdain at it. Even to call it cheap, lazy, and perfunctory grants it a sort of dignity: it implies there was another path it could have taken, that if only this here and that there had been better executed, it might have been saved.

This is not the case.

Taken 3 cannot even be bothered to continue the ridiculousness of the very premise the franchise is based on. No one is kidnapped here — or, at least, not as the motivating factor to get Bryan “Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Day to Quit Badassing” Mills (Liam Neeson: A Walk Among the Tombstones, A Million Ways to Die in the West) back into geriaction. Instead, he is framed for the murder of his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen: X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Wolverine)… which, to be fair to returning writers Luc Besson (Lucy, Brick Mansions) and Robert Mark Kamen (Colombiana, The Karate Kid), does carry on the franchise’s tradition of brutalizing women to get a man angry. Bonus: the victim preblames herself for her upcoming murder when she jokes, “I have the worst taste in men.” Cute.

In the course of exonerating himself, Bryan will assault a slew of LAPD officers simply doing their jobs in a responsible way, ensure the deaths or severe injuries of anonymous innocent civilians during a car chase with those cops, and endanger his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Knight and Day), in multiple ways, including ramming a small plane with her aboard as it taxis for takeoff. With all the vehicles that explode with minimal provocation in this movie, Bryan should have worried that he’d end up killing Kim. At least his tender “I put something in your drink to make you nauseous” scene with her does not involve the potential for a fiery death.

Speaking of exploding vehicles, Bryan makes not one but two preposterous escapes from them. Later, he taunts a bad guy with an “I supposed you’re wondering how I escaped?” which would normally be a movie’s cue to at least show us how such a feat was accomplished. This is not something the movie feels the need to bother with.

But there’s so much more to hate! There’s the embarrassing theft — in plot, visuals, and dialogue — from The Fugitive, featuring LAPD detective Forest Whitaker (Out of the Furnace, The Butler) as not-Tommy Lee Jones hunting down the man who didn’t kill his wife. There are the odd repetitions of banal exposition; the sequence about the bagels is almost hilarious for how pointlessly its mundanity is dragged out. There’s the waterboarding as PG-13 heroism. There’s the enormous body count accompanied by a virtual absence of any blood whatsoever: people can get their throats cut, their brains blown out, their guts and chests shot up, and incur nary a bloodstain on their clothing.

Then again, cardboard people would likely not have any blood coursing through their veins anyway.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Taken 3 for its representation of girls and women.

red light half a star

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Taken 3 (2015)
US/Can release: Jan 09 2015
UK/Ire release: Jan 08 2015

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated AB (contains attempted bagelry)
MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief strong language
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate action violence, infrequent strong language)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    I have a slight hope that if this fails Neeson will think about going back to the interesting roles he used to do before he became the ageing action hero for the new generation. But probably not.

  • Gemmabeta

    “I don’t think there’ll be a ‘Taken 3.’ She can’t get taken again, that’s just bad parenting.”
    –Liam Neeson, 2013

  • At this point he should have enough money in the bank to go back to low-paying indies…

  • RogerBW

    This is true. But it may be he actually likes the big films.

  • David

    I’ve had a big crush on Maggie Grace for a while now, to the point where I’ll actually watch the shitty movies she’s in. One of the things I did like about the last one is that she actually got to do more than just get kidnapped. Does she actually get to do anything in this one?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I was commenting elsewhere on Liam Neeson’s choices of roles. I still think it all goes back to Miranda Richardson’s sudden, tragic death. Neeson has appeared in so many films since then that he must still be working close to non-stop (heh). If it’s about the money, I suspect he’s trying to make sure his kids are taken care of (though they’re both of college age now).

  • foofoohead

    Not Miranda Richardson, Natasha Richardson.

  • Dr. Rocketscience


  • A Guest

    It’s kind of a disturbing and dark thought, and one that this movie kind of does away with. But up to killing Lenore, I had been wondering how much playing “the people I care about are in danger and I can tangibly act upon that danger and brutalize it, hurt it, and save them”, was a form of either coping or escapism for Neeson.

  • Nope.

  • LaSargenta

    Halleluiah!! I think Liam Neeson’s going to be doing some different kinds of roles: http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-30912656

    From the article:

    PARA USA said…”We will no longer provide firearms for use in filmsstarring Liam Neeson and ask that our friends and partners in Hollywood refrain from associating our brand and products with his projects.”

  • Danielm80

    What would happen if dozens of stars all spoke out in favor of gun control? Would we get an entire year of non-violent movies? I like to think we’d end up with theatres full of sophisticated dramas and screwball comedies. But most likely, we’d get a whole bunch of formulaic romantic comedies. All starring Jennifer Aniston.

  • RogerBW

    Oh, won’t anyone think of those poor sensitive gunmakers? Their feelings have been hurt!

  • LaSargenta

    Oh. I thought they had fewings instead.

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