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A Brief Review of "Taken 3"

Taken 3 was one of the last movies I saw in 2015 and one of the few that was actually released in 2015.  It's actually a perfect summary of the movies from this past year I got to see: incompetent, borderline amateurish direction and editing, a dearth of clever ideas, and barely-serviceable acting, but not actually all that terrible when you put things in the right context.

Taken 3 got shat on heavily by critics everywhere, so I feel like I need to open by saying that I didn't think it was all that bad - especially when put next to Taken 2, which was significantly worse.  There are plenty of flaws you can pick at, but even at its worst - other than a too-long prologue - Part 3 still ends up being a serviceable Dumb Guy Movie, whereas Part 2 was just a bloated stew of crappy gender politics, unfinished plot threads, and the occasional interesting idea that never paid off.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about Taken 3 is that it was smart enough not to do another kidnapping plot.  It could easily have gone that route: maybe the President's daughter, or some random ambassador, or who cares.  If they had been brazen enough to just do the same plot a third time, I wouldn't have bothered writing a post about it in the first place.  That truly would have been disposable.

Instead, they decided to kill off a major character and put Liam Neeson in the ol' "man framed for murder has to clear his name by murdering other people" story arc.  It's a cliche, sure, but it's a fun cliche, and one that feels overdue.  Most of the time, the movie knows exactly what it is and just excels at being that.  Around minute 15 to minute 100, there's a fun, dumb action flick that delivers all the base goods you want.

Unfortunately, the action is often marred by some of the worst editing I've seen all year.  The frenetic cross-cutting, shaky-cam, and tight framing makes some action sequences completely unwatchable and dulls the tension of the rest.  It ends up being one of those action movies where you have more fun waiting for the reaction to the carnage Neeson leaves behind than you have watching him carry it out.

The other problem is that the dumb fun is sandwiched between an overly-sentimental prologue and epilogue.  This is not a new complaint from me.  Taken 2 did the same thing, but made it far worse, and even the first Taken had a bit of ham-fisted characterization at the fade-in and fade-out.  When you know that you're only introducing the protagonist's family to give him motivation to bludgeon people to death later on, you don't need to pad the movie out by pretending those characters are anything more than plot devices.  The extra footage is actually more disrespectful.

This puts me in the awkward position of recommending something that there's not really a point in watching for most people.  If you were a fan of Taken and you're looking for more of the same, then don't watch this.  If you were a fan of Taken and you think you might be interested in a sequel, but you don't mind a huge dip in quality, then skip right over Taken 2 and watch this.  And if you've already seen Taken 2 and hated it, but you've read this far, then let's just be honest with each other: you know you're going to see Part 3, anyway, so you might as well get it over with.

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