By Octavio Karbank
You’d think bad guys would know to stay away from Liam Neeson and his family. You’d think so, but you’d be wrong. Yet without bad guys’ stupidity, we wouldn’t have Taken 3. In a world full of unnecessary sequels and reboots, I’m sure some of you are asking if Taken 3 is any good. In that question there is no easy answer. The more immediate way to describe Taken 3 is that it’s definitely better than the lackluster Taken 2, but certainly no Taken. Recapturing the magic of the first film in any given series, a feat many directors find themselves burdened with, is no easy chore. More problems arise when those sequels were unplanned for. From there, directors and screenwriters go out of their way to make things overcomplicated and extra flashy in hopes of outshining the original movie.
Such is the case with Taken 3. With an especially convoluted plot that makes very little sense, you oftentimes wonder why screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Kamen deviated from the formula that made the original Taken so wonderful. The first installment in this now trilogy followed a simple plot: daughter of badass gets kidnapped, forcing him to go all terminator on folks. In Taken 3 there’s backstabbing, varying agendas and plotting, and general confusion, with characters themselves occasionally wondering what the heck is happening. Besson, the writer and director of Taken, got it right the first time around. I’m curious what happened between then and now.
Despite the unnecessarily complex narrative featuring Neeson framed for the death of his ex-wife and the two hours of nonsensical storytelling that follow, watching Neeson taking on waves of bad guys never gets old. How many times can he karate chop someone in the neck? How many people can he slam through glass doors or windows? The answer, according to Taken 3, is a good many. At the end of the day, it’s the primary reason why people went to the film. We want to see Liam Neeson destroy as many people as possible in the coolest ways possible. Of course some of the action scenes are outlandish and the death-defying scenes are completely unrealistic, but that’s okay. We make concessions if only because it’s Liam Neeson in a car getting thrown down an elevator shaft and emerging unscathed from both that and the resulting explosion.
Famke Janssen, Neeson’s wife in the movie, doesn’t stick around for long and has very little screen time; a bizarre strategy on the screenwriters’ part. Even more curiously, we’re subjected to Maggie Grace and her character’s struggle with discovering she’s pregnant. Somehow this is supposed to matter to the audience. It doesn’t. Sprinkled in because, well, reasons, I guess Besson had the overwhelming need to add some poorly contrived emotional conflict? Add to the mix Forest Whitaker, the lead detective assigned with hunting down Liam Neeson, and, for lack of a better phrase, stuff happens. The essence of Whitaker’s character is boiled down to his carrying a chess piece around wherever he goes. A detective who likes chess; go figure.
Even with the myriad of problems plaguing Taken 3, the movie delivers the action we were hoping to see. The motivations of characters other than Neeson, whose sole desire is to keep his daughter safe, ultimately don’t matter. You don’t go and see Taken 3 and hope to witness cinematic grandeur on a Shakespearean level. You go because you want to see an angry Irish man punch people in the face. On that level, Taken 3 more than delivers. As for everything else…well, it wasn’t like they were hoping for an Academy Award or anything.
Octavio Karbank is a writer and bona fide Whovian. Living in Massachusetts, you can find him on Twitter @TymeHunter and his blog www.cozmicventures.com