The first two Taken films (and presumably those other Liam Neeson variations that no one watched because they do not have Taken in the title) work from a very simple premise: Someone that Bryan Mills loves gets taken, and Bryan Mills tracks down the abductor by accomplishing feats way beyond the abilities of anyone Liam Neeson’s age, yells growly words at the bad guy, and then kills him with his bare fucking hands, laying waste to everything in his path along the way. Liam Neeson has a particular set of skills, and those skills suit a very particular movie formula.
Taken 3, on the other hand, is a SHAM. Nobody gets taken (at least, not really)! This time, he’s trying to track down the murderer of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) before the murderer takes his daughter (who is now pregnant). THE ORDER IS ALL WRONG. It throws the entire thing off kilter. It’s madness! It’s cats breeding with rhinos! It’s Neil Degrasse Tyson unironically boning a Kardashian! It’s putting your pants on before your underwear! Everything is ruined. Christmas is cancelled. The Easter Bunny has been mauled by a T-Rex.
It’s also a goddamn terrible movie. Writer Luc Besson and director Olivier Megaton make the idiotic mistake of trying to sew a plot into the backwards movie formula, and the Taken formula doesn’t need a fucking plot. It needs more growly words. But here, Bryan Mills is not only trying to track down the guy who murdered his ex-wife before he also kidnaps his daughter, but he’s been framed for the murder of his ex-wife, and the cops are after him. Forest Whitaker plays the lead detective, Franck Dotzler (what’s with the unnecessary C, Franck?), and he’s very passionate about capturing Mills, even though it’s obvious to Dotzler that Mills didn’t kill his ex-wife. Dotzler just wants to catch Mills in abrogation of justice because because it’ll give him a cool high, like injecting meth straight into your brain stem.
Dougray Scott, meanwhile, reprises his role of Stuart St John, the husband of Lenore, and it’s immediately obvious that squirrely Stuart had a hand in his wife’s murder because he’s squirrely, so to go along with the cheesy, sentimental dialogue, there’s no tension, no suspense, and the stakes, somehow, feel diminished on account of the fact that NO ONE HAS BEEN TAKEN.
Of course, there’s also a twist in this one, which goes against EVERYTHING for which Taken stands. Taken is meant to be a get-in, get-out, no-fuss mow down the henchmen and kill the bad guy kind of formula, but in trying to breathe new life into the franchise, Taken 3 tries our patience. It needs more abductions, more killings, less superficial pregnancy drama, and a lot less PG-13. Bloodless bullet holes, after all, are incredibly unsatisfying.