Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Olivier Megaton

Stars: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Forest Whitaker, Sam Spruell, Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott, Leland Orser, Don Harvey, Dylan Bruno, Jon Gries, Al Sapienza, Jonny Weston, Andrew Howard, Wallace Langham.

A couple of years ago Liam Neeson himself said that there would not be a Taken 3. He should have listened to his instincts rather than the undoubtedly hefty pay cheque producers waved in his direction. Taken 3 is easily the weakest in the series, which has obviously run out of inspiration and ideas. It is a formulaic and ludicrously over the top action adventure; yes it is never dull or boring, but you can safely check your brain at the cinema door here.

This time around former covert operative Bryan Mills (Neeson, still credible as an action hero even in his early 60s) is set up to take the fall for the brutal murder of his ex-wife lenore (Famke Janssen, wasted in just a couple of scenes). Mills finds himself on the run from the cops, thus setting up a Fugitive-like chase, with him trying to prove his innocence while being pursued by a couple of the most incompetent cops ever (Don Harvey and Dylan Bruno). He is also determined to protect his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from his enemies. Here Mills is both hunter and hunted. He even enlists the help of some former ex Black Ops colleagues to help him find those responsible for setting him up.

And he also tries to find out about the involvement of Kim’s filthy rich and sleazy stepfather Stuart (played here by Dougray Scott, replacing Xander Berkeley) in events. Apparently some of his shady business deals have gone south, and desperate to save himself he has become involved with some sinister characters. The Russian mob and their callous disregard for life have become the villains du jour for many Hollywood action films of late (The Equalizer, John Wick, etc), and once again they become the cliched villains and target for Mills’ vengeance.

The script has been written by Luc Besson and regular collaborator Robert Mark Kamen, but the dialogue is rather clunky and most of the characters cliched and one dimensional. In recent years Besson has been behind a number of slickly produced but vapid action vehicles starring the likes of Jet Li and Jason Statham. But he is quickly becoming the Gallic equivalent of Michael Bay, in which everything seems louder, bigger and faster that before, but not necessarily better.

Taken 3 has been directed at a fast and furious pace by the appropriately named Olivier Megaton (Taken 2, Transporter 3, etc), who dishes up a megaload of carnage and frantic action as Mills unleashes his particular skill set on the bad guys. Megaton and his editors Audrey Simonaud (3 Days To Kill, etc) and Nicholas Trembasiewicz (Taken 2, etc) bring a frantic, hyper kinetic style to the film, and they can barely hold a shot longer than five seconds, which artificially bolsters the adrenaline pumping action, but also renders many of the key action scenes unwatchable. And the team of stunt men have certainly earned their pay here, especially during the freeway chase sequence in which cars collide and are crushed by a tumbling freight cargo box.

Since the death of his wife in a skiing accident Neeson seems to have thrown himself into a succession of brutal and visceral action movies, possibly as a way of working out his anger and aggression. He still has an imposing presence and makes for a lean and mean action hero, one who causes massive collateral damage in his wake, although the number of explosions, crashes and shootouts he seems to survive here stretches credibility.

As Detective Dotzler, who is heading up the manhunt for Mills, Forest Whitaker essentially plays a variation of the same character he played in the last two seasons of The Wire, with many of the same mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. But he doesn’t bring to the character that same sense of world weary cynicism that Tommy Lee Jones brought to his role as the determined marshal in The Fugitive. And there is little of that same sense of tension in the dynamic between Dotzler and Mills.

Sam Spruell (The Hurt Locker, etc) is decidedly nasty as Oleg Malankov, the sadistic leader of the Russian mob, but he is little more than a cardboard cutout character.

I liked the first Taken – it was one of the better action movies of the decade, and although Taken 2 was passable enough it showed signs that the franchise was slowly losing the plot. And this third film in the series softens the blood and violence so that the brutality of the first two outings seems curiously toned down. Taken 3 should be the final nail in the coffin of the series.



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