Overall Grade: (D)
Round-three of the series lacked the impact and ambition that made the franchise a winner, with a story-line that tried to raise the stakes to the highest level only to result in a borderline mindless action romp.
When he is framed for a murder he did not commit, ex-government operative Bryan Mills (Neeson) will once again break out his ‘particular set of skills’ to find out who is responsible. With the FBI in pursuit Mills will enter his old world with the help of his longtime friends to prove his innocence, and track down the killers before he has to lose someone else he loves.
The “Taken” trilogy has always reminded of the “Die Hard” franchise. When the first film was released in 2008 it surprised audiences, succeeded in its expectations and make Liam Neeson a viable name in the group of post-50 action stars, much like the first “Die Hard” film did for Bruce Willis in 1988, minus the (post-50). The third and what they call final entry in the franchise finds Neeson’s character once again, in the wrong place at the wrong time (à la John McClane).
This one had its moments but the recycled story-line and highly predictable plot was a disappointment for a series that in my opinion had released two very solid films before it. With the family members of the cast returning there was a strong chemistry between them, and as usual Neeson was great in the role, being able to pull off the gentle father, loving husband and trained killer with ease. Maggie Grace was again believable as the grieving daughter, although she had been significantly relegated to a smaller role from what I remember in the past films.
Despite some strong cast performances, as the film progressed and you could clearly see where the plot was going to take you, and thus, the enjoyment began to waver. The Russian mobsters were neatly placed, highly common from other movies, and served as no real force against Neeson’s character. You never have any doubt the leading character will accomplish his goals, but some creativity in how it would be done would have been nice to raise the intrigue this film was ultimately lacking.
Forest Whitaker was surprisingly good in this film, not that he isn’t a great act because he truly is, but the one strong element of this weak story-line, for me, was the direction his character took. In too many films we see the lead agent/detective blindly chase the innocent man with a seeming ignorance to the evidence right in front of their face. I really enjoyed how his character never took anything for what it was, took into account all the factors and concluded his own reasoning behind what was going on. His subtle working of the case while Neeson, shot, fought and raced all over town were the stand-out moments in this run-of-the-mill action romp.
As for the action, other then some decent car chases I felt oddly enough that the moments of high adrenaline were a hindrance to the film overall. The scenes were far to over-edited resulting in dizzying segments of chaos flashing in front of you so fast you miss everything without even taking your eyes off the screen. I’m not sure what the point was of passing up on some fluid action shots was, but this choppy result was the biggest disappointment to a franchise that usually captured Neeson’s repertoire with a skilled eye.
Overall this wasn’t a horrible action film, but in the end lacked the thrills of the prior entries. Neeson carries the story-line as best as possible and Whitaker slips in with a subtly great performance. However with no ambition taken into the plot, the predictability factor and almost rookie film school feel of the action editing, this third installment of the “Taken” franchise was only slightly above average, serving to pass the time much more then keep you on the edge of your seat.