About twenty-minutes into director Olivier Megaton’s “Taken 3” I had a truly terrifying experience: a “Quantum of Solace” flashback. A poorly scripted action movie can sometimes be redeemed by the action scenes. Until the dreadful “Quantum,” this had always been the case with the Bond films. The same can be said for “Taken 3’s” producer/co-writer Luc Besson’s 7 year leap into genre filmmaking: bad movies, passable action.
“Taken 3” is just bad. All of it. Everything. Most especially the action.
Except for the exotic locales, everyone and everything returns for what will hopefully be the last chapter of this exhausted franchise. Sadly, unlike its predecessors, “Taken 3” offers no globe-trotting. From beginning to end, we are stuck in ugly Los Angeles. And there are few surprises in the plot not already spoiled by the trailer.
Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is still the awkward but lovable dad to Kim (Maggie Grace) and forever enamored with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). After he’s framed for murdering Lenore, Mills finds himself on the run from the LAPD as he attempts to clear his name, protect Kim (of course), and avenge Lenore’s death.
Forest Whitaker is wasted completely as Franck Dotzler, the Police Inspector in charge of the task force hunting down Mills. Because he’s been awarded the most thankless role in history ever foisted on an Oscar-holder, Whitaker literally has to use a rubber band to create something resembling a character. Dotzler is like a sad tribute to the character Whitaker played 20 years ago in “Species”: a clueless man on a manhunt running around Los Angeles spouting The Obvious.
“Species,” however, is a brainless but terrific genre film with a number of outstanding action scenes. “Taken 3” is dull and dumb, with action scenes that are literally painful to sit through. Jump cuts, shaky cam, no respect for spatial geography, and even less respect for the audience.
If the action had been filmed and put together by a professional instead of a blender on meth, “Taken 3” might have been salvageable, certainly less painful and frustrating.
From what I was able to catch glimpses of, the IDEAS behind the action set-pieces seemed exciting. Don’t quote me, but I’m almost sure there was a car chase that involved Neeson driving down the wrong side of an L.A. freeway. I can’t be sure because director Megaton put a megaton of effort into ensuring you had no idea what was going on. But if that in fact was the case, what a waste. The same with a couple of fight scenes.
The original “Taken” is about as good as action movies get — reminiscent of those Charles Bronson’s grinders from the seventies that revolved around violence, revenge and criminal subcultures that existed as though law enforcement didn’t. “Taken” was tough, smart, and most of all satisfying. It still is. Nothing is lost on repeat viewing. “Taken 2” was an anti-climactic letdown but a passable middle chapter. I just assumed “Taken 3” would rally — would bring it home and wrap it up in a Big Way.
“Taken 3” sucks.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC