No one had to be more surprised with the success of 2008’s Taken than its star, Liam Neeson. The thriller was credited with creating a new chapter in the veteran's career, that of action hero. Audiences adore him in that capacity as we’ve seen with most of his movie choices since, which also included the sequel, 2012’s Taken 2.
Neeson is back in Taken 3 and if you believe the poster, this is where it ends -- but never say never, right?
Neeson’s Bryan Mills has been framed for the murder of his wife (Famke Janssen, we’ll miss you), as teased in the Taken 3 trailer. Hot on his trail is LAPD Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker, a terrific addition to the series). Mills knows there’s something else going on and his “special set of skills” will find those responsible, all while clearing his name.
Even though they are in few scenes together, Whitaker and Neeson achieve a terrific cat and mouse chemistry that works. Oftentimes in a thriller like this, that can be tough to pull off when the performers don't share the same space. But, with actors as esteemed as these two, it is electric. Watching Dotzler one step behind Mills over the course of the film is well crafted by screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, and executed by director Olivier Megaton.
See, what Dotzler lacks in international spy savvy pursuing Mills, he makes up for with intelligence and finally over three films, we have a foe for Mills that is at his level in many ways. But, he may also be an ally!
Taken 3 is better than Taken 2, although not by too much. There is something about The Fugitive nature of the story that totally had us riveted more so than the European adventure the last time out. And having Mills evading the law while seeking justice on his own turf of Los Angeles has its benefits too (no spoilers here, but he has help -- logistically and personally).
Besson and his partner Kamen are terrific at orchestrating action sequences on the page that come to life onscreen with such electricity. It fits Neeson like a glove. Their talents of weaving a web of intrigue are also well documented. But, there are a few moments where the dialogue is lacking and even a tad unbelievable. Let’s be honest, though, you’re not watching Taken 3 for the chit chat. It’s to see Neeson kick ass. And he takes care of business and then some.
What we also appreciated this time out is there are a few less hand-to-hand combat scenes -- versus what we saw in Taken 2. They’re fine and all, and seeing Neeson execute his moves utterly unlike someone in his 60's is quite life affirming in a weird way. In Taken 3, filmmakers have dropped a few brutish fights in favor of some fantastic car chases. One even has us recalling one of our top 10 car chases from To Live and Die in L.A. Yup, driving at high speeds on the Los Angeles freeway… the wrong way!
Our Taken 3 review finds that it’s hard to capture what was lightning in a bottle, i.e. the first film. This is squarely a case of watching a character we adore doing what he does best. And we’re just fine with it not being much more than that.
Is this the end? We think it is highly unlikely this is the last we’ll see Neeson as Mills, and we’re just fine with that too.
Watch Taken online and see how it all got started.