If one of life’s finer pleasures is a well-constructed action sequence (and it most certainly is), then Taken 3 is a crime against humanity. The series kick-starting original at least had gripping, weighty gunfights atop its slightly boring narrative, and the sequel was agreeable enough for it to fly past without causing too much offense, despite being borderline dreadful. But the third (and final!) installment, which plays like little more than a contract fulfilment, is filled to the brim with incompetent, messily assembled, annoyingly styled, terribly choreographed action sequences, alongside maudlin interactions between the invulnerable, omniscient Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and the rest of his family. Simply put, a bad series has reached a new low, even amongst the vast swaths of Neeson-starring imitators that have sprung up following the original Taken‘s unlikely success.
Speaking of family, Bryan’s headfuck of a wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) is thankfully killed early on, but not before she announces that she’s attempting to divorce her current husband Stuart (Dougray Scott). This divorce apparently has nothing to do with the trauma inspired by the near death situations that she and her daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) have endured, because there isn’t any. In fact, there’s little evidence to suggest that any of the events from the first two movies have ever even happened, let alone that they made any impact on the characters in any way. The only reason Lenore appears in this installment is to die (a throat slashing with no blood, which nobody seems to find weird), which then initiates a narrative that twists and turns through various pointless avenues, almost like The Fugitive mixed with the Bourne movies and Death Wish, minus anything good about any of them (and regarding Death Wish, that’s saying something).
Preposterous narratives are another great pleasure of cinema, as are laughably phoned-in performances, and Taken 3 has these in the buckets that I constantly hoped its every intrepid character would kick. The problem is that it’s too serious, which is a shame because if the tone were lighter, this thing would be incredible kitsch. Instead, what we get is something that becomes repetitive within the first ten minutes, where stakes are raised with soap opera tactics (Kim discovering her pregnancy made me feel physically sick), and where Neeson spouts off “bad-ass” one-liners to a giant-ass panda teddy. Adding insult to gruelling injury is that Bryan survives absolutely stupid stuff, such as when his car is rammed off a cliff (his escape is later explained very cheaply), or when his car explodes and levels half of the building he’s in (which is never explained, because of course it isn’t).
Most of the time, I wondered whether it was only bothering me so much because I was watching it on my own. I’ve laughed my way through worse movies than this within group settings, but as it stands, Taken 3 is an unreservedly awful example of the Hollywood cash-grab, something that succeeds on barely any kind of level whatsoever. It’s even a bore to review, because when a movie is this crap, all you can think about is how crap it actually is, and when it’s dull alongside that, there’s only so much that can be said for it. Basically, fuck this shit; I’m glad this turgid series is over.