Liam Neeson returns for the third and final installment of the ‘Taken’ franchise as Bryan Mills, the retired Black Ops specialist with a “particular set of skills” who went to the end of the earth to get his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) back from eastern European kidnappers in the original sleeper hit back in 2009. As a surprise sleeper hit, ‘Taken’ was one of those movies that exceeded expectations and thereby warranted a sequel if not a trilogy for the sake of the bottom line. Unfortunately, in such instances the sequels nearly always disappoint since there were no plans initially for follow-on stories. While ‘Taken’ was an average and serviceable action B-movie in the tradition of Charles Bronson’s ‘Death Wish,’ critics were far less kind to ‘Taken 2’ with its hackneyed “an eye for an eye” revenge plot. ‘Taken 3’ fared no better critically with its current “Rotten Tomatoes” rating of 11%.
It is well deserved. ‘Taken 3’ is a cinematic train wreck equivalent to the worst excesses of Michael Bay and Paul W.S. Anderson. Bloated, overwrought, over-the-top and unbelievable, ‘Taken 3’ became a chase movie by making Mills a fugitive from the law as the prime suspect for the murder of his ex wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). There’s no tension or suspense because we all know that with his “particular set of skills” he will have no problem evading the police while getting the real bad guys who killed his ex. To make matters worse, even the mind-numbing action sequences are silly and uninspired. In one scene, Mills somehow jumped out of his car right after it went off a cliff before exploding in spectacular fashion seemingly without a scratch; in another he was outrunning fully automatic weapons fire in a penthouse apartment from a Russian baddie who doesn't lead his shots despite being ex-Spetsnaz. I thought I was watching a cartoon.
No matter. ‘Taken 3’ took in $40 million at the box office over the weekend at #1, thanks to suckers like me packing the seats. Why? Because like the ‘Fast and the Furious’ franchise it has wide appeal and is immune to critics. With its family-centered theme about a loving father and husband who will do anything to keep his loved ones safe, this is the type of action movie that speaks to both men and women. In one memorable scene Mills asked Forest Whitaker’s character (an LAPD detective) what his top priority was, to which he replied: “To bring the person responsible for your wife’s murder to justice.” Mills then said: “My top priority is to get my daughter back.” You can’t go wrong with that no matter how much a movie blows.