There’s a reason why the “I have a particular set of skills” speech from the original Taken became so iconic: It was the thrill of watching an actor as talented as Liam Neeson bring some palpable gravitas to the clichéd role of the seemingly retired killer called back into action. Seven years later, Taken 3 proves once and for all that Neeson should stop relying on this particular set of skills.
He’s back as Bryan Mills, who must now clear his name and protect his pregnant daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) after his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) turns up dead in his apartment, with all evidence pointing to him as the killer. Bryan must elude a tenacious police detective (Forest Whitaker) who wants to bring him in for the murder, all while unraveling how Lenore’s current husband Stuart (Dougray Scott) is mixed up with a conscience-free Russian baddie poised to go on a killing spree if he doesn’t get paid.
Olivier Megaton (who also helmed Taken 2) directs this installment of the increasingly tired franchise, and it seems like he failed to compose a single frame that he wants us to look at, because he cuts away from every image after about a second and a half. This is true of both the quieter scenes that set up Bryan’s relationships with his daughter, ex-wife, and Stuart, and the frenetic chase sequences and indecipherable one-on-one fistfights. Either Megaton has no faith in his own direction, or he has zero respect for his audience’s attention span.
Already a renowned actor, Liam Neeson enjoyed one of the most unexpected third acts in any movie star’s career by becoming an action hero in his mid-fifties with Taken. He rode that box-office wave for a few years, putting out a string of similar-looking suspense flicks: Unknown, Non-Stop, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and of course, the obligatory Taken 2. As a result, seeing Neeson play this type of role no longer feels surprising or exciting.
Taken 3 doesn’t offer up anything new, and screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen—who have masterminded the entire franchise—assume audiences will be happy with more of the same. It’s such a lazy movie that it’s left unclear at the end if one of the recurring characters, Bryan’s old buddy Sam, is alive or dead. When the filmmakers themselves are this disinterested, it’s clear that the people who are suckered into buying a ticket for this flick are the ones who have been taken.