Fresh off the back of a few other Taken rip-offs and cash-ins, Luc Besson and Liam Neeson reunite once again for Tak3n, the latest installment in the recent slew of Neeson as unstoppable man-of-action-sploitation, directed by Olivier Megaton of Colombiana and Taken 2 fame. Here we see Neeson thrown in the deep end once again, as he gets framed for the murder of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) then goes on the run from the police, all while attempting to track down his ex-wife’s true killers and maintain a positive, fatherly relationship with his daughter (a plot device weakly shoehorned into the script because apparently it couldn’t be a Taken film without an unnecessary focus on their relationship in peril).
Neeson looks great here, and isn’t afraid to accept his middle-agedness gracefully – there are a few scenes where we can see him owning a bit of a beer gut with style and it looks like there have been minimal digital touch-ups to his figure. It’s refreshing to see someone in the action genre who isn’t totally ripped and so brazenly owns their age and persona, and props should be given to Neeson for not letting his ego get in the way of looking like a normal (albeit, very attractive in a hot dad kind of way) person.
Unfortunately, the film suffers from a number of major shortcomings1, at the forefront of these are a horrendously lazy script penned by Besson and regular collaborator Robert Mark Kamen, co-creator of the Karate Kid and Transporter franchises. The script is about as by-the-numbers and predictable as they come, sprinkled with wooden dialogue that is often beyond cringe worthy and almost laughable, as though somebody sent this thing through a random action-movie cliché line generator. Besson and Kamen have shoe-horned in a bunch of emotional content (a pregnancy, a marriage that is falling apart etc.) that needs to be handled with at least a moderate amount of care to be effective; unfortunately they are treated with total and utter disrespect making these plot devices a dull, unrelatable slog to sit through. Films like Besson’s own Lucy have proven you don’t need to add tedious emotional sludge to drive a modern action film and immerse your audience, so to see Besson fall back onto over-used tropes and insincere tensions is more than disappointing.
The second major short-coming of the film is one that afflicts many modern theatrical ‘action’ releases, most of which have been very clearly been neutered in post-production to achieve a PG-13 rating in the States. More often than not this is a financially motivated move, to widen audience size, and it is almost always to the films’ absolute detriment, removing the visceral punch essential to action cinema. Often I found myself confused by the content of action sequences as characters were shot and apparently killed despite a total absence of blood or other bullet-related wounds. It was pretty hard to get immersed in set pieces when they were so unrealistic and devoid of logic or direction, and there’s only so many times I can see Neeson survive another explosion that would most definitely be fatal. It seems that he is covered head to toe in plot armor, something that never occurred to me in last year’s John Wick or during any of the decent Die Hards.
The film’s one saving grace was its conclusion (involving a car and a private jet) that slightly made up for its extremely bloated 110 minute runtime, but in my opinion this isn’t enough to save the film from the trash pile – this is truly an entry into the modern action genre destined to fall into obscurity. There are just too many modern action films that are better than this, and even a number of recent Neeson films that are better Taken sequels than this; Tak3n just can’t compete with the likes of the admittedly very over the top, but very fun Non-Stop, or the surprise critical success of A Walk Among the Tombstones. There is literally nothing that this film offers other than a pretty solid 10 minute sequence towards the end and slightly less product placement than other major Hollywood films (although they must say the word Porsche 10 or so times at completely inappropriate moments). When there are other recent, better Besson and Neeson films out there that bring something more to the table than cookie-cutter, repetitive, lazy action there is no reason to watch another Taken installment that manages only to sully the reputation of the original.
I can’t state this clearly enough – Tak3n will waste your time. There isn’t even any reason for fans of the series to watch this film – there are no surprises (beyond the death outlined in the film’s synopsis), an exceptionally low stakes narrative (Neeson could obviously get off the murder charge if he turned himself in, and Whitaker’s cop is shown to be extremely competent and even pieces everything together himself by the end), and terrible, terrible action. Skip it, rewatch the first one or throw on a copy of Non-Stop to get your Neeson fix instead, you’ll have a lot more fun.