Overview: In Taken, the endless wave of Euro-villains took Liam Neeson’s daughter. Taken 2, they took the whole family. In Taken 3 (or as I prefer to call it, Tak3n), the only thing that gets taken is our money. 20th Century Fox; 2015; Rated R; 108 minutes.
A Particular Set of Skills: I’m actually quite a big fan of the first Taken. It’s a buffoonish male power fantasy but the action is directed well enough to keep me interested. The replaceable/endless wave of villains are straight out of video games, and Liam Neeson brought around a wave of old guys kicking ass well into their 50’s and 60’s (many of which are played by him). In some ways, it holds all the same appeal as the popular TV show 24. The ticking clock, the three act baddies, the onslaught of simplistic villains. All fun stuff. Taken 2 is the worst type of sequel wherein it’s a shitty rehash of events that occurred in the previous film, dumbed down to a point where grenades were being tossed off a roof to give Liam Neeson directions (not kidding).
Sporadic editing is the main detriment to that sequel. Scenes are filmed poorly but the editing gives the film an unintentional scattershot effect that makes action scenes incomprehensible. When a punch is thrown, the camera angle changes. As the Neeson punch gets close to the intended target, the camera angle changes again. As the Neeson punch reaches the target, the angle changes once again. Apart from the action scenes, dialogue scenes swing around a room no further intent than to remind us this is a movie set. The movie was edited to a pulp, beaten and tossed into a blender.
I spent the opening paragraphs discussing Taken 2′s failures because Tak3n suffers from almost every single problem its predecessor has, with the exception of rehashed plot elements. Granted, Tak3n is just a Liam Neeson vs Forest Whitaker version of The Fugitive (so maybe just watch that vastly superior movie).
Lack of Identity: Underneath the poorly constructed exoskeleton of seemingly cocaine-fueled editing choices, Tak3n: The Fugitive is still a dumb movie. There exists potential for something along the lines of Non-Stop (the ultimate Taken sequel, if you use your imagination), but it’s never realized. Forest Whitaker plays a police investigator who twirls chess pieces and rubber bands between his hands. He spouts some exposition. The other cool, chatty special forces agents from the previous entries actually get to assist Neeson in clearing his name. It only took two movies for these characters to do something else besides barbecue. Famke Janssen literally slept through half of Taken 2 and she has the pleasure of continuing to sleep for a paycheck because she spends most of this movie (spoilerish) as a corpse (end spoiler). Congratulations to her for finally finding a role she can play in her sleep.
Recommendation: There was once a glimmer of hope in my eye for a fun, schlocky Taken trilogy. The universe failed me, but being the optimist that I am, I’ve constructed my own perfect Taken trilogy. You open with the original Taken. Enjoy that grade A/level B action movie for what it is. Follow it up with a viewing of the underrated Non-Stop and experience the insane tonal shift once it becomes about 9/11. End with sad Liam Neeson as he survives the wilderness, fist fights wolves, and gives an unexpected sympathetic performance in The Grey. Yeah, The Grey is actually a movie with an arc and emotion behind it, so expect a significant increase in quality as the make-shift Taken trilogy continues.
Final Take(n): If you accidentally find yourself in a theater watching this movie, you might enjoy it more than the unwatchable Taken 2. That doesn’t mean there is anything else to recommend about it.