And so once again we are in the company of Bryan Mills and his very specific skill set as brought to life by the incomparable Liam Neeson. The one-man demolition squad, trained by the darkest of black ops, is once again called into action when his family is threatened. Fortunately, this is no irksome rehashing of TAKEN, or even a rehashing of the rehashing that was TAKEN 2. No, TAKEN 3 falls into the action sub-genre of big dumb fun. Plot holes, one or two. Convenient coincidence, but of course, but as glass shatters, cars explode as Bryan doggedly pursues his prey there is a sense of fun as well danger. Well, danger for anyone foolish enough to get in Bryan’s way.
As you recall, in TAKEN, it was Bryan’s daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who was kidnapped while on vacation in France with dad coming to the rescue. In TAKEN 2, it, was Bryan himself who was kidnapped, and it was up to Kim, with dad’s help, to rescue the paterfamilias in the wilds of Istanbul. For the third outing, it would seem only natural that it would be Kim’s mother (Famke Janssen) who would be the McGuffin for which all are searching, but in a twist that signals a bit of originality at work, the lovely Lenore, object of Bryan’s abiding affection even though she has remarried, is murdered and Bryan himself is framed for the crime.
Storytelling is not what draws us to a flick such as this, but there are some nice touches embellishing the formula. Forrest Whitaker is the police inspector trying to stay one step ahead of Bryan, who is, of course always one step ahead of the police. The inspector fiddles with a rubber band as he puzzles out what is going on, and is clever enough to figure out that there is more to the carefully staged murder scene than meets the eye. He’s also smart enough to warn his officers that just because Bryan is handcuffed in the back of a squad car, doesn’t mean he’s not up to something. It’s just after the officers scoff that the pile up on the freeway ensues. And while it is absolutely unsurprising that this is the outcome, there is something satisfying about seeing Bryan perform as expected. It’s impossible, as are so many of the scrapes he has gotten into previous, and as the ones he will shortly encounter will be, but he is such a paragon of focus, skill, and follow through that he’s actually a role model for us all, no matter the walk of life that we tread.
Neeson never tries to hide his age. When, as we all know that he will, he finally comes face to face with the Russian mobster who figures prominently in the story, said mobster calls him an old man while inquiring who it is that has wrought such unexpected havoc. There is also a cheeriness to him when a police officer warns Bryan that this will all turn out badly and Bryan retorts by telling him not to be such a pessimist.
The plot thickens as Kim tries to be brave, and Stuart (Dougray Scott), Lenore’s widower, hires extra security to keep himself safe from Bryan.
Clues are tantalizing, and hard to come by as Bryan nimbly outsmarts everyone while also taking chances by making Kim’s peace of mind a priority. Crisp direction, and Neeson’s sheer force of personality keep it not just interesting, but positively lively as we marvel at Bryan’s exploits that defy logic and physics, but not the definition of a good time at the movies.
TAKEN 3 dangles the possibility of another sequel, and here’s hoping it’s as good as this one.