The bitter end of an awful action franchise

Liam Neeson returns to well-trod territory with the very unnecessary Tak3n.

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Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace
Upon leaving the theatre after seeing Taken 3 (to henceforth be known as Tak3n), my initial reaction was, “Well, that was better than I expected.” I stand by that. Unfortunately, I had very low expectations.

Tak3n picks up more or less where Tak2n (that can’t be right, can it?) left us. Ex-CIA bad-ass Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is trying to live a normal life after having to save his family from Albanian brothels and whatnot. He’s also going to be a grandpa but doesn’t know it (this literally has no impact on the plot, but it’s there anyway) until one day, his ex-wife is found dead in his apartment. He must now prove his innocence while performing lots of kung-fu and car chases.

Tak3n is pretty much a mess right from the get-go. The opening scene is executed so poorly that I thought it might have been one of those ads that tries to look like a movie but then ends up being a commercial for a car or an app that lets you buy movie tickets ahead of time or something. The script has all the grace of made-for-cable action. The editing is no better. In fact, the editing is bad to the point of distraction, taking a page from Michael Bay’s obnoxious playbook with its half-second shots and excessive cutting. Elaborate action sequences are butchered into a sloppy mess (is this car chase or a bunch of shots of squealing tires? You be the judge!). Even simple dialogue scenes are edited this way; apparently, someone thought every conversation needed to be seen from 68 different angles.

The film is also host to a plethora of awful cliché characters, poorly executed by what I had believed were talented people. Forest Whitaker seriously phones in his role as the pensive police officer (he always carries a chess piece with him, how cerebral!) tasked with tracking down Mills. His role in Tak3n makes you forget that he won an Oscar once. Then there’s the Russian mobsters with their outdated clothing and outdated haircuts, splashing around in bathtubs with bikini-clad babes while taking shots of vodka. And of course, Liam Neeson returns as the brooding lead, poorly hiding his Irish accent whilst playing one of the most boring characters to have ever been the subject of multiple films. One would think that after playing the same character for years (and not just in the Taken films), he’d have found a way to make Bryan Mills somewhat interesting.

All of the above could have been forgiven if the movie had at least been fun. That’s really the film’s biggest crime; it’s just boring. When the film’s not boring you to tears with terrible hackneyed dialogue, it’s revelling in its own sloppy, confusing action sequences. Every clever plot twist feels like a punch in the stomach when you realize it’s going to tack on an extra 10 to 15 minutes of runtime.  ■
Tak3n opens in theatres today, Friday, Jan. 9. Watch the trailer here: