It’s that time of year where either Ken or I remind everyone that, unless we’re talking leftover awards contenders, almost everything that comes out in the next couple of months or so is garbage and being unceremoniously dumped into the doldrums of January and February moviegoing. At best, maybe a movie’s too weird for a studio to know what to do with. Taken 3 falls firmly into the former category since it’s the antithesis of weird — it’s perfectly normal for one of the chuckle-headed movies that make up this franchise. Taken 3 is nothing you haven’t seen before in Taken (2009) or Taken 2 (2012) or any number of goofy, macho action movies that have come along. The only difference is that this time around it’s just a little more stale and a little more rote.
The only way in which Taken 3 diverges from its predecessors is that no one’s kidnapped, which has been the previous films’ raison d’etre. Here, screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have shaken things up, having the series’ protagonist, lumbering superspy Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), pinned for the murder of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), on the run from the cops and trying to clear his name. Of course, the series being what it is, the road leads through a bunch of Eastern European gangsters who Bryan gets to hack, maim and occasionally kill. There are gunfights, fistfights, foot chases and car chases, with none of it particularly coherent or exciting or original. The action exists, therefore it’s supposed to be exciting, at least that’s the idea. In practice, it’s a lot more dull.
The film’s just as humorless as the previous two. I thought Neeson was great in last year’s A Walk Among Tombstones, but here he’s reverted back to the stone-faced lump this action star phase of his career has relegated him to. The rest of the cast does little to help, with Maggie Grace carrying the look of a woman surprised that she’s still getting work with Forest Whitaker here to apparently class up the joint (he doesn’t). Combine this with how honestly dumb the movie can be (our hero tries to revive his dead wife by slapping her wrist a bunch) and Taken 3 is overwhelmingly self-serious, lazy and — worst of all — not fun. The lack of any sort of sense of humor has always been the downfall of these movies, with the straight-faced nature of the thing butting heads with how dumb the movies are. The only mirth is picking up the spots where they’ve scaled the film back from an R-rating (like dubbing “screwing” over a character saying the f-word), but that humor is obviously unintentional and only worth so much mileage. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief strong language.