It’s hard not to think of Liam Neeson as an action star and no one really blames you if you do. When he appeared in Taken it was a massive success that very few people would imagine it gaining the traction it has in pop culture. At the time Neeson was viewed very differently in the public eye as he was still widely known for roles like Qui-Gon Jinn and Oscar Schindler. The film also had a similar effect on the career of its director Pierre Morel as he to established himself as an action director. However, like we’ve seen so many times to the point we’ve lost count, the eggheads of Hollywood tried to board the train after it had left the station and so began the milking process of pushing Taken 2&3 onto the world.
Taken 2& 3 both directed by Olivier Megaton continue the story of Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his family which include his daughter (Maggie Grace) and his former wife Lenore (Famke Janssen).
In Taken 2, Bryan is on holiday in Istanbul and his daughter and former wife make a surprise visit. Meanwhile, the father of one of the men Bryan killed in the first Taken film and Albanian mafia head Murad finds out where Bryan is and, get this, plans to take Bryan and his family to exact his revenge.
In Taken 3 (or Tak3n), Bryan’s former wife Lenore is murdered, Bryan is framed for said murder and now he is the one who is being pursued. So Bryan has to find out who the real murderer is and prove his innocence.
Can you tell from the way I wrote about the premises of these films that these films get lazier and lazier? Because that is essentially what you have here. You have two sequels to a surprise hit action film that get lazier and lazier to the point that what you essentially end up with are two run of the mill action films that never live up to the success of the first.
A quick sidenote here before we go on, I do hate Taken 3 more than Taken 2, because while both films are undeniably lazy, Taken 2 made some effort to insert a revenge element into its plot and moved forward with the idea that Bryan’s actions lead to consequences, but in no way is this me defending Taken 2 and/or 3 because they threw out the grounded action of the first Taken in favour of some of the most poorly filmed and ridiculous action I’ve ever seen.
Let’s explore the most ridiculous in each of these films because when you mention these films to someone there is one scene in each that they remember the most. To Taken 2 first of all, when Bryan is kidnapped in the film, he uses a hidden phone to contact Kim and she convinces him to let her help, so it starts off ok with Bryan guiding Kim with his expert map skills, but then when you think something clever is going to happen, he has her throwing GRENADES in the streets of Istanbul to figure out where he is. Now putting aside the real world tensions in Turkey and with the Middle East, I’ve been told that this scene is semi-accurate as loud noise is a good way to locate where you are, nevertheless just because something is “accurate” doesn’t mean it will translate well when put to film. So sure Kim, go ahead and launch grenades, or start another Arab Spring uprising, up to you.
Now with Taken 3 this is where illogical filmmaking is greater than illogical actions. If you though Taken 2 had poorly filmed actions scenes, you ain’t seen nothing yet. So, who’s in the firing line for this disaster, none other than Taken 3’s editors Audrey Simonaud and Nicolas Trembasiewicz. I’ve read some great books on the artistic process of film editing, so it’s clear to me that the editors of Taken 3 may have skipped a few classes in film school because Taken 3’s editing is right up there with the worst cinema has to offer. For instance, the simple act of Liam Neeson jumping over a fence, nothing too complicated there. Now take that action and show it with a dozen different shaky camera angles and a dozen cuts lasting a minimum one second. It’s a mindboggling assault on your vision, you only have audio confirmation that Liam Neeson made it over the fence. Imagine if someone like Edgar Wright did that in any of his Cornetto Trilogy films, the guy would be booed out of the industry.
What really grinds my gears about these two films, more than the ridiculous action scenes, more than the sloppy filmmaking (if you can call it that), is what this film thinks about its audience and it is the most insulting thing filmmakers can do to assume it’s audience is stupid. That’s right I said it. Why did we like the first Taken, well simple, great action, great performance from Liam Neeson and the feeling of a passion project. Taken 2&3 sucks any sense of passion and care, boils it down to the bare minimum of what’s expected in an action and says “yes, this is what our audience wants”. But in doing this you are essentially insulting the intelligence of your own audience and thinking that people will just fork over their cash because they don’t know any better is THE most disrespectful attitude you can have as a filmmaker.
It was a struggle for me to put up with watching these films to bring you this post, I’m reminded of the darkest corner of Hollywood where all the money grabbing filmmakers live. They pounce on something great and suck the life out of it so that they can meet their box office targets, and they’ll know they’ll meet their targets because they’ll weald the success of the first film like a large net. They’ve got no respect for you or me. The best thing we can do is stick with the original Taken film and let Taken 2&3 just fade away. But if for some reason you want to see these action disasters for yourself I have only one thing to say.