Pity poor Bryan Mills.
All this aging dad and ex-husband wants to do is hole up in his humble L.A. apartment, make gourmet meals for himself and brainstorm adorable ways to tell his college-age daughter, Kim, how much he loves her. (Like, say, spontaneously delivering a gargantuan stuffed panda and champagne to her three days before her birthday.)
Bryan's such a decent fellow, in fact, that his ex-wife, Lenore, confides in him the troubles she's having in her subsequent marriage to a not-so-decent dude named Stuart. And Bryan's decency is on display again when he wisely draws the line at the temptation of having an affair with his emotionally vulnerable ex.
All in all, his is a quiet, gentle, humble, anonymous existence. For all anyone knows, Bryan Mills is just a regular, black-leather-jacket-wearing sixtysomething hermit with an awesome Irish accent.
Did I mention yet that Bryan used to be a Special Forces über-soldier? And a spy? And a paramilitary sensei? Or that, for him, things never stay quiet long? Did I really need to? Because, as the title to this now well-established action franchise tells us, someone in Bryan's life is always being taken from him. He's always pushed to respond, which always demands trading his gentle, humble, anonymous existence for something considerably more lethal.
This time around, the titular taking isn't a kidnapping at all (not at first, anyway), as was the case in the first two installments. No, this time the stakes are higher and grimmer from the get-go when Bryan returns to his apartment one morning to find his beloved Lenore with her throat slit in his bed. He's no more than picked up a bloody knife laying on the floor when police burst in to bust him.
Bryan, of course, is not easily taken. "It's time to go down the rabbit hole," he says after eluding the police, a squad that's led by the determinably doughty Det. Frank Dotzler.
Bryan easily deduces that he's been framed for Lenore's murder, and it's not long before he learns who his wife's killer is: a wickedly vicious Russian crime lord named Oleg Malankov. It appears that Malankov has had something of a business "misunderstanding" with Stuart. And he's taking bloody retribution accordingly.
His next target? Kim. Again.
Because as anyone who's ever crossed Bryan Mills has painfully learned, taking the ones he loves away from him is something you do at your own mortal peril.
Bryan Mills is once again depicted as a ferociously protective father and ex-husband, a man who will go to any length to shield his family from harm. Kim is the apple of his eye, and his surprise birthday presents are just one way he tries to tell her how much he loves her. After Lenore's murder, he's indomitable in tracking down her killers and seeking to protect Kim from further harm.
Bryan longs for a reunion with Lenore (before her tragic murder, of course). But when her reciprocal feelings toward him look like they're headed to a physical reconnection after a spontaneous kiss, Bryan pulls back and says that they can't do that. In doing so, he strikes a balance between trying to listen to his ex-wife and not violating a boundary by committing adultery with her.
Bryan also exercises restraint by refusing to deliver a coup de grace to bad guys on two different occasions (even when moviegoers might expect him to). Throughout, Bryan's pursued by Det. Frank Dotzler. Dotzler suspects Bryan is innocent, but he feels compelled to do his police duty in pursuing his prime suspect in Lenore's murder. Kim repeatedly expresses her loyalty to her father, vehemently trying to convince Dotzler of her father's innocence. But Dotzler wisely says that it isn't his place to assess guilt. That's a job, he says, for the courts.
A priest at Lenore's funeral partially quotes Psalm 23 and says "the Bible constantly tells us that there will be difficult times."
Malankov is drinking and flirting with two bikini-clad women in a hot tub when Bryan shows up. Once their battle commences, the Russian wears only tight underwear and an open robe. Kim wears cleavage-revealing outfits. We briefly see underwear around her ankles while she's sitting on a toilet.
Lenore says she fantasizes about being with Bryan again, which leads to the aforementioned kiss. Bryan withdraws quickly. "I'm sorry," he apologizes, saying he'd like to go further, but that doing so wouldn't be right. Still, Stuart later accuses him of "screwing my wife."
Malankov kidnaps a man, threatens him, shoots him and locks his corpse in a vault. Bryan fights police with his fists, knocking them out. Bad guys he's not so shy about killing, though, with at least a dozen being punched, kicked, coldcocked, shot and rammed through various plates of glass. Most of the film's body count comes courtesy of bullets in several intense, lengthy confrontations between Bryan and Malankov's men.
Worthy of specific note is a time when Bryan puts a gun to a bad guy's mouth. When Bryan doesn't kill him, the man puts his hands on the pistol, yanks it farther into his mouth, then pulls the trigger, committing suicide. Bryan tortures a man by placing a burlap bag over his head and pouring water over his face until he (repeatedly) chokes.
Bryan's attempts to evade police and find Malankov repeatedly place lots of civilians in danger, especially when a protracted car chase on an L.A. freeway results in multiple (spectacular) accidents—including cars flipping and being crushed. That scene also has Bryan throwing a police officer out of a moving car. On another occasion, Bryan's car gets rammed and pushed off a cliff; it rolls and tumbles before exploding. He backs a car into an elevator shaft, where it plunges to the bottom and explodes (with our hero managing to miraculously escape, of course).
We see security-camera footage of Lenore's abduction. Twice we see her sheet-covered body (her bare shoulders and a neck wound visible) in the morgue. She's also shown dead on Bryan's bed. A villain eventually kidnaps Kim and holds her hostage at gunpoint.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word. About a dozen s-words. God's name is misused 10 or so times (about half the time paired with "d--n"). Jesus' name is abused twice. Vulgarities include "a--," "a--hole," "h---" and "scumbag."
Drug and Alcohol Content
There's that champagne birthday gift, of course. Several scenes depict characters drinking and smoking. After he thinks he's killed Bryan, one of Malankov's goons says, "Let's go get drunk." A shootout takes place in liquor store.
Other Negative Elements
Bryan and his friends easily and repeatedly hack police computer systems while searching for information to track down Lenore's killer. Bryan impersonates a police officer looking for evidence at the gas station where Lenore was abducted.
A pregnancy test Kim's taken (offscreen) reveals she is pregnant with her boyfriend's baby. An odd conversation between Bryan, Kim and her boyfriend finds Bryan saying he'll support the couple with whatever choice they make. The sequence is fairly ambiguous about whether he's talking about them getting married or Kim having an abortion. (They don't and she doesn't.)
Before Taken's unexpected box office success back in 2009, no one likely would have pegged soft-spoken Irishman Liam Neeson—who's now 62—as the next great action star. But that's exactly what happened. Since then, Neeson's starred not only in Taken 2 (and now this third installment), but in other high-calamity, high-grit roles in Unknown, The Grey and Non-Stop. Apparently, audiences just can't get enough of Liam Neeson's "particular set of skills."
I wonder, however, if Taken 3 will finally mark a slackening in fans' appetites for his family-man revenge fantasies. It's simply not a good film—either aesthetically or ethically. Neeson looks as tired and bored with the now formulaic avenge-and-protect plot as I was with watching it. The carnage is as predictable as it is incessant, as rote and generic as it is mind-numbing. It's as if the screenwriter simply copied and pasted the phrase, "Bryan Mills pummels and shoots bad guys" on every other page of the script.
Scenes shared by Bryan and Kim pack emotional resonance, of course. We certainly don't want the young, pregnant girl to suffer the same fate as her poor mother. In a distant, abstract way, it's good that her ever-watchful, ever-skilled daddy is there to protect her.
But that's where the word good ceases to have much application to this soul-sapping actioner, a weary and wearying finale for a franchise that's already taken away too much of our time.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills; Maggie Grace as Kim Mills; Famke Janssen as Lenore St. John; Forest Whitaker as Frank Dotzler; Dougray Scott as Stuart St John; Sam Spruell as Oleg Malankov
20th Century Fox
January 9, 2015
April 21, 2015