"Taken 3" would aptly be subtitled "Liam Neeson Kicks Ass" if it wasn't such a foregone conclusion. This third and hopefully final series entry is more of the same in that Liam Neeson (2014's "Non-Stop
") is, once again, beating up and outsmarting everyone who wants to take him down. The stakes are just as high this timehis family is in danger, and he has been framed for the murder of someone dear to himwhile the screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen gives 2012's "Taken 2
" some hefty competition for sheer absurdity. It's mildly competent and mostly diverting, but the formula is getting stale, and it feels like everyone involved knows it.
A few years have passed since ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) narrowly escaped kidnapping and torture in Istanbul, and even more since Bryan saved Kim from shady Paris sex traffickers. These unlucky souls have been through it allexcept, that is, for actual death and being wrongfully set up for a homicide they didn't commit. Enter "Taken 3," wherein Bryan and an unhappily married Lenore have no sooner begun to rekindle their relationship when tragedy strikes close to home. With LAPD Sergeant Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) and his ragtag officers closing in, wanted-man Bryan narrowly escapes and sets out to find the people behind this unthinkable crime. Also pulled into the high-stakes goings-on: college student Kim, still grappling with the discovery that she is pregnant, and Lenore's husband, Stuart (Dougray Scott), not exactly the most trustworthy of fellows.
The long-delayed "Taken
" was a surprise sleeper hit when it finally opened stateside in January 2009, breeding an unintended but wildly lucrative franchise. The original was stronger on all levels than the disposable two that followed, but their existence has played a huge part in shooting respected veteran actor Liam Neeson into the stratosphere of action superstar while in his mid-fifties. His leading-man studio projects that followed "Taken" have been all over the map in quality2012's thought-provoking adventure "The Grey
" has arguably been the best, while 2010's "The A-Team
," 2011's "Unknown
," and 2014's "Non-Stop
" have proven to be of a more standard ilkbut there is no denying how very good he is at playing the no-nonsense, cool-under-pressure hero who thinks nothing of saving the day and doing away with anyone who has wronged him.
In "Taken 3," helmed by returning director Olivier Megaton, Neeson's Bryan gets himself out of tight corners so easily it's a wonder there hasn't been some late-story revelation that he is a psychic superhero. In one scene, he instantly knows the blueprint of a stranger's garage and flees undetected via a secret tunnel hidden under floorboards. With cops swarming him around every turn, he manages to drop by the morgue undetected to take a hair sample from a deceased victim. Even when he is arrested, he still finds a way to break out of handcuffs and steal a police car. And, were that not enough, he survives a car accident that finds him plummeting off a cliff and down a steep ravine, only to walk away from a totaled car and ensuing explosion without so much as a scratch on him. If anyone can achieve the impossible, it's Neeson.
"This is gonna end bad for you," an officer warns Bryan just before he speeds off in the law enforcer's car. If there is one thing "Taken 3" is sure of, it is that this rash, resourceful, unstoppable protagonist will serve up his own form of justice and save the day before the end credits roll. Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace (2012's "Lockout
") are likable as Bryan and Kim, by now forming a tight-knit bond as onscreen father and daughter, and it is because of them that this cornball of a flick remains palatable even when the viewer has long since stopped caring about the hows and whys of the plot. Director Olivier Megaton exhibits spare streaks of style, as during the glittering, flare-heavy opening credits sequence scored to "Toes" by Glass Animals, but his attempts at orchestrating major chase set-pieces too frequently prove choppy at best and incoherent at worst. When all is said and done, Bryan and Kim have each other and, if studio 20th Century Fox will let them, a future free of rampaging thugs and assassins. These characters deserve a break, and so does this increasingly preposterous, threadbare series.