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Film review: Taken 3

Lazy filmmaking and implausible plotting add up to a lacklustre third and final chapter to this tired thriller franchise.
Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills in Taken 3. Sam Urdank / courtesy 20th Century Fox / AP Photo
Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills in Taken 3. Sam Urdank / courtesy 20th Century Fox / AP Photo

Taken 3

Director: Olivier Megaton

Starring: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace

Two stars

Bryan Mills must be one of the unluckiest Americans alive. First, a bunch of Albanian human-traffickers kidnapped his teenage daughter in Paris (Taken, 2008). Next, Mills and his ex-wife were snatched in Istanbul by vengeful relatives of the dead baddies from the first film (Taken 2, 2012). And now Mills himself is forced to go on the run after being framed for murder.

Taken 3 was never a movie that was going to pass a feasibility study. But for those who enjoyed the previous chapters, it may be a moviemaking experiment in how far incredulity can be reasonably stretched before the audience breaks out with an allergic reaction (symptoms include baulking, retching and social media trolling). This time around, Mills is at home in Los Angeles – retired, golfing with CIA buddies and turning down work so he can hang protectively around his daughter (yes, the one who was “taken”), who is now a university student, and bring her age-inappropriate gifts.

His ex-wife, meanwhile, is unhappily married to another guy and likes to make unseemly passes at Neeson, sorry Mills, but he’s just so darned gentlemanly that he always turns her down. And then a dead body shows up in his apartment. Huh.

Cue a fun-filled action romp in which Mills clambers through a sea of sewage, gets arrested on purpose, survives two gigantic explosions, makes a menacing phone call and deliberately poisons his pregnant daughter (disclaimer: he didn’t know at the time). It all winds up with Mills chasing down sinister Russian baddies (surprise), who speak the kind of Russian-English you only ever hear in Hollywood. Although, of course, that’s not the whole story, but I won’t ruin the surprise for you.

Won’t I? This is perhaps the biggest problem with Taken 3 – every plot twist is spelled out with Post-its so clear, a toddler could easily figure them out. Olivier Megaton’s ineptly directed action sequences aren’t just implausible, they’re impossible to follow. The writer and producer Luc Besson – whose Leon and Nikita are case studies in implausibly engaging action heroes – leaves Forest Whitaker’s gropingly inept inspector to painstakingly connect the dots.

Meanwhile, there’s no escaping the sad fact that Neeson, now aged 62, simply doesn’t measure up as a believable action hero. It’s not just unrealistic, but outright ridiculous to watch him floor men half his age, and twice his size. The guy looks out of breath walking.

Which prompts the question what exactly Neeson – an actor of worth who brought weight to historical dramas Schindler’s List, Michael Collins and Kinsey – is even doing in the thing.

There is, of course, an obvious answer. Neeson was reportedly reluctant to reprise the franchise with 2012’s lukewarm Taken 2, but signed up for a US$10 million (Dh36.7m) pay packet – 10 times his earnings from the first instalment. Reports are that he pocketed double this time around.

The actor himself is clearly under no illusions. In Dubai for the UAE premiere this week, he brushed aside criticism, describing the movie as “popcorn-fare”, adding that it’s “not a critic’s film”.

And it’s clear from the 2,000-plus happy faces who turned out for the premiere that the audience definitely loves it.

However, audience demand alone can’t excuse what is essentially lazy filmmaking. Mainstream multiplex escapism can be a riotous pleasure, but much of Taken 3’s 108 minutes is a chore to be endured – the hopefully final chapter in a tired franchise, based on a one-note character, wheeled out once more for his bankability alone.

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: January 17, 2015 04:00 AM

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