Ah, Spring Break. That time when families get together to celebrate Easter or Passover, spend some quality time together, and watch Liam Neeson kick some serious ass. Wait, you don’t celebrate religious holidays? Sorry. Well, the good news there’s still Liam Neeson to fill your need for revenge driven action and neck snapping, with the release of Taken 3 in Digital HD. There are sequels a lot worse than Taken 3. Hell, there are movies that are a lot worse than Taken 3. Knowing what to expect, it’s hard not to have a good time. This is the third in a series of films about a super human covert agent who uses his specific set of skills to save his family. However, Neeson elevates the material of just about everything he works on and that is so the case here. Plus, he has Forrest Whitaker along for the ride.
In this installment of the Taken films, Neeson’s Bryan Mills, a former CIA operative, is living a comfortable life in Los Angeles. Daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) is in a stable relationship with a young man and going to college. She learns that she’s pregnant in the opening frames and spends part of the film trying to figure out how to tell her dad. Meanwhile, Bryan and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janseen) are on friendly terms. In fact, she confesses to fantasizing about him when her new husband is in the other room. Lenore hints at wanting to get back together with Bryan, but he’s so honorable that he won’t let anything happen until her struggles with her husband, Stuart (Dougray Scott), are worked out.
Tragedy strikes, as it always does for Bryan, when he returns home to his apartment to find Lenore murdered in his bed. Staring at the love of his life with her throat slashed, Bryan barely has time to grieve when the police storm his apartment with guns drawn. Despite his pleads that he didn’t kill Lenore, the cops are ready to arrest him. Only when he’s on his knees, about to get cuffed, does Bryan begin to process the wrongness of the situation. How did the cops get there so fast, and why are there ten squad cars? At that point, he does what he does best: flick the switch inside of him and become a lethal weapon who can easily dispatch two men and flee from twenty police officers.
From there, Bryan is on a mission to find Lenore’s killer and exact revenge in as painful a way possible. He enlists the help of his three close friends (Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky), finds secret ways to communicate with Kim, and eludes the keen mind of Whitaker’s Police Inspector Dotzler. The cat and mouse game between Bryan and Dotzler resembles the relationship between Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, I’d say that Taken 3 is more a homage than a rip off. Likewise, the scenes of the secret hideout where Bryan and his cronies meet (in a garbage dump) and the multiple times Bryan is able to slip away in a big crowd brought to mind Darkman, Neeson’s 25 year old cult classic with Sam Raimi.
As with the other Taken films, this one involves multiple chase sequences and plenty of hand to hand combat. The first two took place in exotic locations in Europe. Taken 3 takes place in Los Angeles, which is kind of an exotic filming location since so little filmmaking is done in L.A. these days. The death defying car chases on the congested freeways and the use of the sewers and L.A. river were refreshing. As for the fight scenes, what makes Neeson so appealing as an action star is that he isn’t some muscle bound super hero (sorry, Liam). Instead he’s a tall, lanky everyman who knows his strengths and isn’t afraid to show his weaknesses. For instance, during a fight with some Russian thugs, they almost get the better of him, hinting that he’s lost a step. Sure, he winds up getting the better of the gunmen, but I like this touch of realism in the middle of something so ridiculous to ground the drama.
Taken 3 was written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, who also wrote the first two. It was directed by Olivier Megaton, who helmed the second, as well. The film is predictable, yes, but it’s also fun diversion if you’re looking for some ass kicking Neeson fun on a Saturday night.
Taken 3 is available now to stream in Digital HD on Amazon, iTunes and Vudu.