Near the start of Olivier Megaton’s Taken 3, former government operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) talks about predictability with his daughter (Maggie Grace). In the movie, he also arrives at his daughter’s apartment 3 days before her birthday with a giant plush panda.
The scene, which capitalizes on the awkwardness of seeing a ruthless action star attempting to dig into his softer side, is of course used to add humor to the affair.
The discussion on predictability inadvertently sums up what’s wrong with Taken 3.
In all its earnest efforts to stray away from the predictable course of the franchise, it only ends up being awkward, unfortunately, without any of the humor.
A family man no more
The franchise’s conceit is still in full force. The films are grounded on the idea of a regular family man whose very mannered demeanor makes him the most unlikely candidate to turn into an action hero committing various extremely violent acts to protect his family.
Taken 3 has Mills retired and alone, with only slivers of the overprotective husband and father he once was. There is a certain charm to this development, especially since the last two films had Mills do everything to keep his family intact only to be rewarded with retirement in solitude. (WATCH: Liam Neeson in new ‘Taken 3’ trailer)
Megaton however does not really delve into the ironic situation Mills finds himself in. There is no effort to gel how tired and bored the character is, as also expressed by Neeson who gives a performance that is uncommonly uninspired and tepid. It’s just a backstory to propel the unremarkable main plot, nothing more.
So Megaton takes Mills away from the exotic locales that became the settings for all the massacres and has him being chased by cops around the dull and drab outskirts of Los Angeles.
See, his former wife (Famke Janssen) has just been murdered in his apartment and he has become the logical suspect. As anticipated, he rampages around town, causing deaths and explosions, all in the name of unspooling the mystery behind his ex’s suspicious demise, proving his innocence, and protecting his daughter from harm.
The murder mystery’s second-rate. It only serves as a background for the ludicrous action sequences that have Mills commit more felonies than what he is initially charged of committing, all for the benefit of idle spectacle.
If Megaton simply added more innovation to the action scenes instead of relying on the standard car chases, explosions, bullet sprees, and fistfights all rendered unintelligible by awful editing and cinematography, everything would have been tolerable.
Sadly, Taken 3’s idea of unpredictability is shallow. It’s all the same, with just the narrative device deviating slightly from the vengeance-fueled ones of the previous films.
A franchise in need of a break
Sure, the film still manages to entertain, although at a level that is drastically not at par with the first two films. There are no pleasant surprises here, even with Megaton’s attempts at making the film supposedly unpredictable.
Taken 3 proves that the franchise is in need of a break, if not total retirement. Its failure to bring something really novel into the franchise’s main conceit only reinforces how drained and tired its concept has become.