For those worried about Ebola or military action by ISIS, I have good news. The actual threat to American lives is Irish actor Liam Neeson, who rampages his way through Los Angeles in “Taken 3,” a film that must have been made as the result of a bet to see if director Olivier Megaton could make the worst film of the new millennium. Luckily for Megaton, he easily won the bet and deserves whatever prize was agreed upon. Unluckily for the film going public, we witnessed a film that sets a new benchmark for apocalyptic abhorrence.
In what can laughably be called the “plot,” former CIA operative Bryan Mills (Neeson) and his inexplicable Irish accent must evade the LAPD after his ex-wife is murdered and he is framed. He is chased by cop Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), who spends the film aimlessly meandering through traffic and eating food he finds at active crime scenes, occasionally delivering a few lines of wooden dialogue or spouting exposition to advance the plot. The scenes waver back and forth between mindless, unengaging action schlock and odd, “emotional” scenes where Neeson stands around looking cross, which are seemingly only there to pad out the film.
This wouldn’t be a “Taken” movie if Neeson didn’t gun down any immigrants with foreign accents. However, the film breaks new ground in having Neeson murder Americans for a change. There’s also a pointless scene near the end where the villains try to kidnap Neeson’s daughter for some unexplained reason. I assume this is only in the film to justify the title. Why are random criminals always trying to kidnap Neeson’s daughter? Are her organs made of gold or something? Neeson shows his fatherly love by taking several steps to protect her, like drugging her against her will and taking her to the site of a major gunfight. Neeson gets away scot-free at the end — despite the fact that he killed several innocent people and caused millions of dollars in damages.
The characters in the film are all underdeveloped and every actor delivers their lines as if they’re reading off of a teleprompter. Rather than showing us a character’s traits through their actions and how they interact with the world around them, a character will say something like, “Watch out for random Russian villain ‘x,’ he’s a psychopath who doesn’t play by the rules,” and it’s never brought up again or actually conveyed in any meaningful way. There’s also some subplot about Neeson’s daughter being pregnant, but it’s only mentioned twice and doesn’t serve any purpose in the story, and I was left baffled as to why the filmmakers left it in. I would go on to list the other glaring plot holes or major lapses in common sense done by the major characters, but since this consists of every action in the film, I’m afraid I simply don’t have enough time.
“Taken 3” tries to have its action-movie violence cake and eat it too. There are several points in the film where villains suffer major gunshot wounds to the head and chest, and one scene where a woman is shown to have her neck slashed open, but there is nary a drop of blood to be seen. This was done in an attempt to avoid an “R” rating and potentially lose revenue from dumb teenagers who enjoy films like this. Also, in a universe where a single punch or smack on the back of the head can kill or incapacitate literally anyone, Neeson suffers a gunshot wound to the chest and shrugs it off as if he had merely stubbed his toe on a coffee table. There’s the standard action movie fare of cars exploding into massive fireballs after minor collisions, guns having seemingly unlimited amounts of ammo and car chases taking place in major cities without any sign of traffic.
In an attempt to distract myself from the film’s awfulness, I played a game of “spot the product placement” with my girlfriend throughout the film. You’ll be happy to know that the film is rich in the capitalist spirit, and I now know that I can safely drive to my next action sequence in my Audi after eating a delicious Krusteaz donut — after I’ve made a deposit at Bank of America, of course. The film also endorses the CIA’s use of torture on captives in a particularly distasteful scene where Neeson waterboards a man in his search for information. What a great way to keep your torture scenes relevant to current events, filmmakers.
The film’s most glaring issue is its cinematography. Megaton must believe that you can build suspense in a film by shaking the camera a lot during fight scenes and doing extreme close-ups of the actors’ sweaty faces. The camera work is so jarring that watching the action scenes for any length of time made me feel physically ill, and the only suspense was wondering if I could watch the screen without vomiting. There is also this strange camera angle used where it appears that characters are attacking the camera itself, which was probably included in some token attempt to build our immersion by making it feel like we are being punched by Neeson and the generic cast of Eastern European villains.
If you’re some sort of hateful masochist and have a desire to see this film, please do so in the theatre and not on your computer or Blu-Ray player. I say this because I fear that putting this film on such a device would cause it to become sentient, and after realizing that humanity had created something as terrible as “Taken 3,” it would deem us worthy of extinction. I mean no hyperbole when I say it is one of the worst things I have ever had the misfortune of seeing. If you want to accurately recreate the experience, slam your head on a desk for 30 minutes until you are angry, pained and nauseous. You’ll save the money you would have spent on a ticket.
Rating: 0 stars