The Third Time Is The Charm!!!10/10
A good action thriller rarely gives its hero a chance to catch his breath. The bottom seems to fall out from under Liam Neeson in the second "Taken" sequel with twists, thrills, and surprises galore. In "Taken 3," the 62-year old Irish thespian makes monkeys out of some rather nasty apes. This improbable but exciting, PG-13-rated, crime thriller differs from its predecessors. Not only does it take place in Los Angeles rather than Europe, but also nobody abducts anybody. Instead, "Taken 3" is a wrongly-accused, innocent man, murder mystery about husband accused of carving up his former wife. The first sign an action franchise is on the ropes is when the producers either start pulling the plug on primary characters or replacing actors. The Famke Janssen character Lenore St. John exits the action early on in this fleet-footed installment, and she ends up in the morgue with a slashed throat. Lenore won't make an encore unless "Transporter" writer & producer Luc Besson pulls a "Dallas" and resurrects this dame. Similarly, "Mission Impossible 2" actor Dougray Scott takes over the role that actor Xander Berkeley originated as Lenora's second husband, Stuart St. John, who appeared briefly in "Taken." Nevertheless, despite these changes and the ill things they usually bode for a Hollywood franchise, "Taken 3" surpasses the first two epics. "Taken 2" director Olivier Megaton and "Taken" scenarists Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen never let the pace slacken once they've established the premise and everything goes to Hell in a bucket. Neeson has to elude cops on foot, survive cars plunging respectively down elevators as well as hillsides with explosive results, swerve around cars and gigantic cargo container boxes careening down a freeway, and dodge a hailstorm of blazing lead. If you enjoyed the first two "Taken" movies, you shouldn't be disappointed with the third one. Personally, I liked it enough to watch it twice.
Things get off to a lightweight start with former CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson of "Nonstop") buying his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace of "Lockout") a huge, stuffed Panda bear for her birthday. While Bryan is planning to surprise Kim, Kim is staring incredulously at a pregnancy test and pondering her collegiate future. Bryan shows up with the Panda and a bottle of champagne. Kim doesn't know what to say except he is three days early. Our hero explains that he is struggling with the problem of not being predictable. Later, Bryan's former wife Lenora visits him at his apartment and complains that her husband Stuart and she are experiencing marital woes. She kisses Bryan in a moment of intimacy, but he breaks off the lip-lock. Eventually, a jealous Stuart asks Bryan to stop seeing his wife. Stuart tells Bryan he plans to go to Las Vegas the next day. Meantime, Bryan spends part of that day out golfing with some buddies. When he arrives home, Bryan discovers a knife on the floor of his apartment. Ignorantly, he picks up the knife, enters his bedroom, and finds Lenora sprawled in his bed with her throat cut. Before he realizes what has happened, two uniformed Los Angeles Police Department cops storm in with their pistols drawn. When they try to handcuff him, Bryan disarms them and flees. A furious foot chase ensues with Bryan charging down back streets, vaulting high fences, and scrambling through homes with the fuzz at his heels. Miraculously, relying on his ingenuity, Bryan manages to elude them. LAPD Inspector Franck Dotzler (Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker of "The Last King of Scotland") takes charge of the investigation. Appropriately enough, Dotzler is baffled when he examines Bryan's records and finds staggering information gaps. "The man is a ghost," he proclaims in frustration to his colleagues, and so he orders them to keep tabs on Bryan's twentysomething daughter Kim. No sooner has he eluded the long arm of the law than he informs Kim that he had nothing to do with his ex-wife's demise. Afterwards, Bryan takes refuge at a hideout and assembles the only four men that he can trust who worked with him in the CIA.
Director Olivier Megaton relies on multiple cameras to capture the no-holds-barred action throughout its nimble 109 minutes. Good action thrillers not only keep the hero leaping through fiery hoops, but they also keep the audience guessing. At least two major surprises take place during "Taken 3," and the villains qualify as homicidal hellions. During one kinetic liquor store shoot-out, Bryan eliminates four trigger-happy henchmen in a hail of gunfire. At one point, he has the fourth dastard on his knees with a pistol in his face. Bryan threatens to shoot the thug if he doesn't reveal the identity of his villainous boss. Rather than come clean, the thug snarls that he would rather die than squeal, tears the gun from Bryan's fingers, and shoots himself in the face. One of the biggest scenes involves our hero infiltrating the lair of a murderous Russian mobster in downtown L.A. who has several heavily armed goons guarding his premises along with a sophisticated surveillance security system. Naturally, Bryan has few problems circumventing the elaborate security system, but the Russian springs a few surprises on him when they tangle. Predictably, the police remain two jumps behind our hero, but they never let up on the pressure that they exert on both Bryan and Kim during their investigation.
Forest Whitaker doesn't have much of a role to work with, but he is a live-wire every moment he appears on camera, and he gets some wonderful mileage out of twisting a rubber band around his hand. Dougray Scott is exceptional as Lenora's complicated husband who is up to his ears in trouble with Sam Spruell's vicious, heavily tattooed Russian gunsel Oleg Malankov. Watching "Taken 3" is like watching the riveting Keanu Reeves' thriller "John Wick." These two movies amount to guilty pleasures with the accent on outlandish action sequences where the hero is not only outnumbered but also outgunned.