First they took his daughter, then they took him and his wife. Now, they didn’t just take his wife, they killed her.
It’s interesting, looking at the slow and steady march down the rankings that this film series has taken. The first film sits at 58% on the Tomatometer. The second at 21%, and this the third film sits at 10%. The critics are none too pleased about this series. And it’s understandable and predictable, if nothing else.
I think the thing I liked most about this film is it didn’t try too hard to drag us in. I didn’t feel as if the film was forcing something down my throat. This is in contrast to the second film which really didn’t have a leg to stand on and tried oh so hard to convince us otherwise. It’s most apparent that this film doesn’t try too hard to convince you that it’s a good action/spy thriller. It spends time with its characters, letting us get a little bit involved in their lives. Bryan Mills is still an inept father who doesn’t quite know what to do with his now early twenties daughter. He still really doesn’t have much of a need for the spy life.
I think this film learned from its immediate predecessor. Where the second film really misunderstood what made the first one a success and just tried to throw every trick in the book at us, this film feels much more subdued. This is to this third installment’s credit in my opinion. While none of this entire storyline has ever been plausible, I think the second film really broke the spell of any believability, and this film returns to it.
The film takes place entirely in one general location — which again, is a bit of a refreshing change of pace. It’s not at all connected to what happened previously — no one wants to take out their revenge vendetta against Bryan Mills, no one is seeing if the guy is really that tough. It only tangentially happened because of Bryan’s skill set.
Avenging His Wife
This is also a return to what made Taken work so well. In the first film, Bryan will stop at nothing to save his daughter. He was not about to let her die because some gas-bag of a politician decided that it wasn’t in his best interest to help out. Who wasn’t cheering for Mills to save his daughter? Here, Bryan returns to his roots by avenging the death of his (ex) wife. You don’t mess with Bryan’s family. You just don’t do it. Here again, I think I was able to cheer him on a bit more than that horrid second film because we all have an innate sense of justice and we wanted to see Bryan take out her killer.
Let’s explore, shall we? How does a man do all the things that Bryan does in this film, and get to walk away free at the end of it all? He injured cops, he most assuredly caused serious injury and death in the second act car chase scene, he hijacked an officer and his car, and he flagrantly broke many, many laws. No way he gets to walk away from that. But Bryan does.
And that’s not even the dumb part here. The dumb part is that Mills comes upon the body of his ex-wife in his bedroom. She’s dead, there’s a knife and blood. The cops come in to arrest him. Rather than go with them and prove his innocence (which would have been quite an easy thing to do, with witnesses at the bakery), he attacks and escapes so that now, in addition to hunting down the real bad guys, he has to keep the cops off his tail too. It made no sense that Mills would take the route he took.
Franck Dotzler can seemingly focus on nothing else than Bryan Mills even tough he finds out what happened to Mills before, and he knows the man will go to any length — and has — to protect his wife and daughter. Why then would he kill her in cold blood? Given that, Dotzler should be focused on finding the real killers, but he spends most of the film trying to catch up with Mills.
Dumb, dumb, dumb dad
Mills leaves a note for his daughter Kim on a bottle of her favorite drink in the store that says, drink all of this now. This makes her nauseous so that she must leave her class and go to the bathroom. Bryan meets her there and gives her a magic potion that cures the nausea. Why not just leave a note that asked her to pretend sickness and go to the bathroom? Goodness!
Surviving Car Crashes Unscathed
There’s no way that Mills walks away from both of those car crashes and lives — particularly the second crash over the side of the hilly mountain area. And yet, he does. What’s worse is that director Megaton thinks he can sell us this load of horse manure by going back to the crash and playing it in slow motion while Mills tells us what happened. But all I saw was the car rolling much more slowly with Mills in it, then, inexplicably, as the car passes through the frame, rolling, Bryan Mills is left behind in the crevice of the hill. Nope. Still doesn’t work. I like big dumb action sometimes, but don’t treat us like we’re stupid. We like to pretend the action makes sense and is well put together, and I had a hard time doing that in some places of this film 1.
I don’t know why Forrest Whitaker was in this film
This film made a big point about Franck Dotzler, but in the end, he really offered this film nothing. All it amounted to was Dotzler being one step (sometimes half a step) behind Mills at all times. And when Mills finally catches the bad guy, Dotzler and co. show up and cuff him. The end.
I thought, the way things were unfolding for a while, that Dotzler was going to put something big together and be a big ally and hero along with Mills. But it never paid off. He told Mills at the end that he always more or less knew Mills was innocent because of the warm bagels (no, really). My thought was, so? And that did what for us? Yeah, Forrest Whitaker’s Dotzler could have been interesting — they certainly gave the character enough personality and quirks — but it just never went anywhere.
In the end, I really can’t recommend this film. There are some nice, tender moments that play well in the drama. And there’s the whodunit aspect of the film that is slightly intriguing. The interactions between Bryan and Kim as father and daughter can be sweet and poignant at times, but for the most part, I don’t know what they were trying to accomplish with this film and I generally consider it to be a failure.
Though I have to admit, this film’s action certainly makes more sense than the atrocity of action that Taken 2 expects us to buy into. ↩