Sometimes, you just need to know when to quit. Especially when it comes to movie sequels.
Spiderman 3. Rush Hour 2. Any Matrix movie after the first one.
But after the disappointment that was the too-focused-on-Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace sequel to the stunning surprise that was the first Taken movie, one could be forgiven for hoping that Luc Besson and Neeson would get the third (and final?) act of the trilogy back on track. Inject Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, well-travelled villain Dougray Scott, and creepy Sam Spruell into the mix, and it had to be better, right?
I have to stop right there: Taken 3 is only better if you take it as a spoof of Liam Neeson action films.
There are the moments when our hero Bryan Mills runs by stacks of automatic weapons to burst into rooms and growl, firing off his one magazine’s worth of ammunition from a handgun. Or the times when Maggie Grace’s Kim grimaces, stares, and grimaces with the same expressions for discovering she’s pregnant, discovering her mother has been killed, and realizing her father has to save her from bad guys again. Or the escaping-from-an-explosive-car trick, the how-did-he-know-that-trapdoor-was there plot hole, or the way Mills proposes that his daughter’s safety is his number one goal while putting her in danger repeatedly.
This just isn’t a good film. It’s not even bad enough to be as laughable as one might hope.
Sure, we want to admire Mills’ dedication to protecting his family, or the way he avenges his ex-wife’s murder. But when he water boards a pretty worthless character, it made me more squeamish than victorious, and when he killed a character who (from the film’s moral code) got what he deserved, it felt hollow. The justice of the first film, when his innocent Kim was kidnapped and he vowed to get her back, has been displaced by an overarching bloodlust for death and revenge. And it’s just not that fun.
So, go see Unbroken. Heck, I’ve seen it twice and the second time was still better than seeing Taken 3 once. And I stayed awake for Unbroken both times.