Ladies and gentlemen, the wait is already over. Here we are, eight days into 2015 and we already have a film that we can collectively hold aloft and declare the worst film of the year. Taken 3 (or Tak3n, as it’s called in the adverts but inexplicably not in the movie itself) is simultaneously the most fun you’ll have in a cinema all year; how can I give the film a bad review if I enjoyed it, admittedly not in the way the filmmakers intended? They were clearly intending an action-oriented, male-skewing melodrama, but have instead made the funniest comedy of the year. Your jaw will frequently be on the floor gaping in disbelief if it isn’t already aching from laughing.
It’s been three years since Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson, clearly here for the pay check) took out the entire population of Istanbul and he’s been living a quiet life ever since. His relationships with his daughter and his ex-wife are back on track and he’s now happily living the quiet life. One day, he leaves his house to meet his ex-wife, to surprise her with some bagels- and when he gets to her house SHE’S FUCKING DEAD. The police storm in coincidentally and assume he’s the murderer, but instead of being taken into questioning to explain his side of the story like a rational human being, Mills decides to beat up the police and go on the run. This is a bizarre move, as it’s means for the first half of the movie, Mills is actually the bad guy; the police are just trying to do their jobs, why is he beating them up and destroying their property? Just fucking speak to them man, seriously. Soon, his every move is followed by an inspector played by Forest Whittaker, who seems to be more obsessed with the bagels Mills bought than the destruction he’s causing everywhere (I’ve barely scratched the surface- but trust me, the narrative only gets weirder).
The first Taken was a personal guilty pleasure, but after the soul crushing dullness of Taken 2, any enjoyment I originally had was taken out of it. Director Oliver Megaton (who clearly has the best name in the film business) only directed the previous instalment- so has presumably seen how boring it was in comparison with the original outing and has decided to focus on capturing the original’s silliness. The masterstroke here is that he doesn’t appear to have any self-awareness to the god-awful movie he’s made; the first Taken worked presumably as everybody involved didn’t realise how silly the film they were making was, with the sequel failing as they took it seriously and removed anything remotely entertaining. Here, every single bad action-movie trope is thrown into the mix and it’s hard not to laugh. Tortured relationship with his family? Check. Bad guys who are foreign for no explicable reason other than it’s easier for American audiences to root against them? Check. Best of all, entire five minute long shoot outs between professional killers who can’t actually hit each other with any of the bullets and never actually stop to reload their weapons? Double check.
In Taken 2, Megaton repeatedly stole songs from the Drive soundtrack to use in ways that threatened to ruin my enjoyment of them; here, he uses locations from Drive for his own piss-poor action sequences. He seems to think that by using elements from a superior action movie, he’s making one himself- and it’s this level of directorial incompetence and all-round lack of self-awareness that makes this whole train-wreck of a movie so compelling. He presumably even thinks that his own Taken 2 was a masterpiece- he ends this movie with the exact same shot, like Kubrick self-referencing 2001 in A Clockwork Orange.
The screenplay may also be my favourite thing that has ever existed; not since Tommy Wiseau gave the world The Room has a script been this uproariously awful. It’s Co-written by Luc Besson, who has previously shown us he can make good action movies but frequently decides not to bother. Here, the feeling of not-bothering evades every moment of what’s happening onscreen. Mills repeatedly escapes death, which the screenplay often doesn’t even bother explaining (admittedly, that sequence in the elevator shaft is incredible for all the wrong reasons). Besson has cynically just assumed that we’ve paid to see it, so we should just sit there and lap this shit up; unfortunately for him, he’s made a film that’s entertaining in all the wrong ways. When this appears on cable TV in a few years time, you will probably watch the entire thing and be amazed at how stupid it gets as it progresses. The final action sequence in particular (the one with the aeroplane) is the weirdest, funniest thing I’ve ever seen in a movie trying it’s hardest to be taken seriously. Maybe the only positive is that it isn’t as xenophobic as the previous outings; although with everything that is wrong with the film, I may have overlooked some of that.
Taken 3 is awful, yet is so entertaining in its awfulness it is impossible to write a bad review- after all, I enjoyed it, just not in the way I was intended to. Don’t waste your money going to see it, wait a few years, have a few beers and invite your friends round to enjoy it with you when it comes on the TV- watching it on your own, or even in a cinema where people might seriously enjoy it, is the worst way to experience it. This is bad filmmaking at its most memorable- and who doesn’t love sneering at a bad movie?