********* 6 out of 10 *********
Director: Olivier Megaton
Actors: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace
We all know how Liam Neeson’s career took a different path after January 2009, when Taken released in the USA. A new action hero was born. The fact that he was already 56 years old made little difference. Six years have gone since then, and during this time we have seen Liam Neeson play the leading action man to perfection in a number of films. Over time, the irony of an older fellow going on a one-man rampage to seek justice has lost a bit of its charm, though Liam Neeson hasn’t. That is why the film-makers are still writing such roles for Neeson, and in all fairness to the actor, he is entitled to the rewards that his new found action hero status is providing him, even if it does not necessarily call for the best of his acting talents. But at some point this will have to stop. Taken 3 is an example of how things have gone a bit too far. A decent movie though it is, it is hardly worthy of an actor of the quality of Liam Neeson. It hasn’t been made with the seriousness and the delicacy of the original, but rather comes across as the forced third film in a franchise that is doing too well to be abandoned. Its tagline reads “It Ends Here” and I do hope that they meant what they said.
Taken 3 begins by showing the love and bond shared between Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). At the same time, Bryan’s ex-wife Lenny (Famke Janssen) confides in him that her current marriage has hit a rocky patch. There lies the possibility of Bryan getting back together with Lenny. But when Lenny is found murdered in Bryan’s apartment, things take a dangerous turn as the cops have Bryan Mills pinned down as the prime suspect. Bryan is now on the run from Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) and his team. Not only does he have to prove his innocence but also ensure that his daughter remains safe from the real killer. Time is ticking, as Bryan and his special set of skills get down to business once again.
Let’s start by saying that the premise sounds a lot too familiar with 1993’s The Fugitive. That classic film had Harrison Ford wrongly framed for his wife’s murder as Tommy Lee Jones ceaselessly chased him. The roles in Taken 3 have been taken up by Liam Neeson and Forest Whitaker. The script, credited again to Luc Beeson and Robert Mark Kamen, is flimsy and quite weak as compared to the previous two movies. Director Oliver Megaton, returning after the success of Taken 2, fails to bring the same level of thrill and intensity seen in the series before, and also ends up subduing the one aspect that was so critical to the success of the original Taken — the special set of skills of Bryan Mills. If you remember Taken, and I am sure you do, then the beauty of it lay in the manner Bryan Mills mercilessly tracks down the abductors of his daughter through some clever sleuthing and also brute force. Even in Taken 2, a lot of these aspects were retained (remember how Bryan Mills figures out his location after the kidnapping, with the help of his daughter?). That side of the story is less slick, less memorable in Taken 3. In other words, it is too ordinary.
The biggest reason to watch Taken 3 though is Liam Neeson. He is the reason you will step into the cinema hall, and he is the reason you will not hate the film. Because despite the average script and direction, Liam Neeson’s persona as an action hero remains undiminished. He stands tall, when others are tumbling; he carries this film on his shoulders, delivering his lines with such force and emotion that they vibrate in your ears for a little longer. He is 62 now, and maybe his action movements seem a little slow (or that might again be due to some poor direction work), but his personality is as big as ever, managing to hold your attention till the very last shot. Famke Janssen, on the other hand, has a limited role in the movie; also, throughout the franchise, there has been little spark between her character and Bryan Mills to make her death seem the tragedy which this movie needed to connect at an emotional level. I felt a chill when the daughter was abducted in Taken, but the death of Lenny in this movie was hardly moving. Maggie Grace returns as the daughter Kim, and her charming and strong personality adds another dimension to the movie. Forest Whitaker though really seems out of place as the lead inspector in the investigation. He is no Tommy Lee Jones of The Fugitive, though blame him less for it is once again poor writing that gave us such a character who is supposed to be an intelligent cop but hardly accomplishes anything in the movie. Dougray Scott plays Stuart who is Lenny’s current husband, while Sam Spruell is the Russian mobster Oleg Malankov. Both have substantial roles in the film, and do a decent enough job, though nothing spectacular that would be worth pointing out.
Liam Neeson has reportedly been paid $20 million for returning as Bryan Mills in Taken 3 which is a staggering jump from the $1 million he had been paid for Taken. It is a jump which is easily justifiable because there is nothing else worth watching in Taken 3 then Liam Neeson. He is the heartbeat of the franchise, and more so now, when the world around him is a poorer version of what we saw in the original. Now that he has been part of so many action movies, I hope that Liam Neeson soon returns to drama films too, because for the talent that he has, it would be a loss to cinema if he keeps choosing something as average as Taken 3.