Taken 3 shouldn’t be taken seriously, because it doesn’t take itself seriously. This is the best advice I can give to someone trying to approach the third installment in Olivier Megaton’s two-thirds of the franchise with a level-head. Simply put, this is a one-hit wonder trying to be a trilogy – or, judging by this film’s cliffhanger, a tetrology.
How I came to this conclusion begins with the cop tasked with bringing in Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) after he is suspected of murder – Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker). An actor worthy of praise if ever there was one, especially given his unflinching role as Idi Amin in the Last King of Scotland, he clearly enjoys playing larger than life characters with big egos; but his part in Taken 3 couldn’t have fallen shorter of this.
The game of cat and mouse between Mills and Dotzler is nothing short of a farce. Dotzler briefs his team before their pursuit of Mills, in which he refers to the latter as a “ghost”. He then proceeds to allow his team to lose Mills over and over again, but seemingly refuses to contribute himself to the efforts – other than making calls which merely serve to allow Mills to slip in his corny, 007 style, catchphrases during the conversation.
The comedy continues as Dotzler realises that Mills cannot be guilty of murder, because prior to the incident, he had been in town purchasing warm bagels; and after all, who has time for such things when your bagels are getting cold? The theme of circular bread products persists as Dotzler’s team help themselves to donuts while questioning a key witness. Maybe there’s some symbolism here that I’ve missed, but I doubt it.
The gaps left by the poor humour are filled in by badly shot and cut action sequences that are almost impossible to follow. Cliche Russian baddies sit atop the chain of destruction, dealing out death on behalf of mystery clients – the James Bond motifs are endless. When Mills finally encounters the one he’s after, a ludicrous shootout ensues which sees Mills running from a man firing a machine gun in his underwear.
What really doomed the Taken franchise however is the overarching theme – family loyalty. The original Taken was an emotional journey of loss, revenge and solace; an honourable man fighting to save his loved ones from a situation he was helpless to avoid. By the second Taken I had started to question Mills’s intuition – was he really so blissfully unaware that his prior actions would have consequences? At this point I think a golden rule should be established: never let your family out of the house. That way, everyone’s safe and we don’t need to see a Taken 4.