Liam Neeson is back in action in "Taken 3," reprising his role as a former black-ops agent who's settled down as a lethally protective dad. According to film critics, however, neither a plot shakeup nor Neeson's "very particular set of skills" are enough to keep the franchise interesting.
The Times' Betsy Sharkey writes, "'Taken 3' is so unintentionally hilarious I couldn't help but wonder — do movie contracts carry a humiliation bonus clause these days? … This time around the dramatics and dialogue are so laugh-out-loud funny that if there is a '4' — despite the promises that '3' is the final chapter — maybe it should be a straight-out satire."
Scripters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen "return without much new to offer," Sharkey says, and "everything you see and hear on screen, from the smallest bit to the biggest boom, gets explained repeatedly." At the end of this third chapter, she says, "let's just hope this is really goodbye."
The Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan seems to have had enough too. He writes, "On the most basic level, this final installment meets the minimum requirements of the genre" as it "dutifully cleaves to the contours of a well-established and viscerally satisfying formula." But it's "about as pulse-pounding as your favorite roller coaster would be on the third go-round, even if the action and chase sequences seem a bit more sloppily constructed than usual."
New York magazine's Bilge Ebiri says "Taken 3's" shift from rescue mission to vengeance tale is problematic: "What's made the 'Taken' films sorta-kinda-maybe work in the past has been the way [Neeson's] over-the-top killing sprees have been driven by his tender, obsessive concern for his family; those are the kinds of broad juxtapositions that writer/producer Luc Besson specializes in." But the third go-round is "more off a standard revenge-story setup, crossed with a wan, pseudo-Hitchcockian accused-man-tries-to-find-the-real-killers tale," which returning director Olivier Megaton doesn't pull off.
"The concept is lame, and the execution is lame, too," Ebiri says.
The Chicago Sun-Times' Richard Roeper doesn't mince words either, calling "Taken 3" a "tired, gratuitously violent, ridiculous and laughably stupid entry in a franchise that started out with at least an intriguing idea and a few solid moments, stalled horribly in the sequel and now should be put out of its misery." Adding insult to injury, Roeper writes, "I'll tell you what got 'Taken.' A hundred and twelve minutes of my life got 'Taken.'"
USA Today's Claudia Puig warns, "If you've seen 'Taken' or 'Taken 2,' you've already been taken, and there's not much different here." She continues, "While this third installment offers a jot more humor (mostly unintentional), the action scenes are disjointed, badly staged and mind-numbing. Lots of chases happen, but none are exciting. The preposterous plot doesn't even hinge on kidnapping, as it did in the first two films, so this outing hardly deserves its title." Neeson, at least, "is fine in battle-scarred warrior mode, but the cartoonish franchise has gone stale."
Still with us? Good, because there a few critics with kind — or less-unkind — words for "Taken 3." Among them is Entertainment Weekly's Kyle Anderson, who writes, "It's a testament to Neeson's startling charisma as an action star that for all its storytelling flaws, large swaths of 'Taken 3' remain wildly entertaining .… The rest of the credit belongs to Megaton, who masterfully constructs explosive set pieces."
Anderson concludes, "It's the weakest of the trilogy, but 'Taken 3' kicks just hard enough to survive another day."
I also have a particular set of skills. Follow me on Twitter: @ogettell