Movie Review: 'Taken 3' (2015)

More mystery than actioner, Liam Neeson is back in this “Taken” three-quel. An appropriate subtitle to this surprisingly engaging bookend to the trilogy could’ve easily been “The Escape Artist” as Bryan Mills (Neeson) shows off a new skill; escaping the inescapable. Getting off to a slow start, “Taken 3” reintroduces us to the characters we’ve come to know and care about.

Mills is still the doting dad trying to connect with his oft-bratty daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and his flirtatious ex-wife Lenny (Famke Janssen) is still trying to sort out her feelings for her kick-ass ex.

In the opening, we learn that there are problems on the home front, as Kim faces a domestic crisis that leaves her shaken throughout the entire runtime. Things only get worse for her when Lenny is murdered and her dad, the man with those certain set of skills, is wrongly accused. It takes a while to get to this point, which is an aspect that’s a tad confusing given it was disclosed in the trailer.

Where “Taken 3” could’ve turned into a ham-fisted version of “The Fugitive”, it manages to be original enough to differentiate itself. The main reason being Bryan Mills is a far more interesting character to watch. After two previous films, viewers are familiar with his plight and rooting for him comes easy. 

Despite the letdown that was “Taken 2”, the franchise rallies back with a fine (supposed) finish. Critics and fans alike seemed to lose sight of how incredible the first movie was and one less than stellar sequel wasn’t enough to shake the resolve of this fan. It has been perplexing to witness how readily some people had written off the franchise after one underwhelming sequel.

The “Star Wars” franchise makes two terrible prequels and their fans are still jazzed to see another installment. There have only been three “Taken” movies, #1 outstanding, #2 average and #3 satisfying. Unlike the aforementioned, pop culture hasn’t exactly been inundated with these movies so what was with the hasty backlash over one not-so-great sequel? It’s very unclear.

By the time “3” has rolled around, expectations have been put in the proper perspective. After delivering a knockout the first time around, it was understandable the follow-up would falter in reaching the same standard.

While “Taken 3” doesn’t equal the first, it comes much closer than its predecessor. There are some great twists and turns, father/daughter moments, car chases and a sufficient number of fight sequences sprinkled throughout to keep things interesting.

The key to the entire franchise has been Neeson, who in his 60's has found his career calling as the silver screen heavyweight. He’s an actor’s actor and an action star rolled into one; a captivating screen persona who is simply fun to watch. In the current age of conflicted anti-heroes and rogue part-time villains, Neeson offers an old school tough guy who never loses sight of his priorities.

The biggest hurdle for the film rests in recasting a role that had previously been so peripheral; it immediately becomes circumspect when it’s not. Then again, it's almost too obvious. Along with stepdad Stuart’s Dougray Scott makeover, one other change is with the character of Kim.

Maggie Grace’s role has long been the trickiest of the franchise. She went from being a whiny victim in the first to an over the top heroine in the second and now she’s closer to the original. By making her growth so vast in the middle film, taking a few steps back was necessary however, this felt almost too regressed.

Weaving in the first movie, Mills’ poker buddies are brought in to help their fugitive pal and their inclusion flows into the narrative naturally. Tying the three installments together is something “Taken 3” does very well and though it builds slowly, the payoff is worthwhile. The angle of bringing in Forest Whitaker’s determined detective breathes new life into the story, offering a police dynamic that should’ve been introduced in the second movie.

“Taken 3” is fun, engrossing and chock full of Neeson doing Neeson. It’s a sequel that capitalizes on its established assets, closing the chapter on some stories and opening the door for new ones. Will audiences end up getting “Taken” again? After watching “3”, I wouldn’t mind it. Rating: 7.5/10

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