By Barry Koltnow
Everybody knows the three certainties of life — death, taxes and speed traps.
But it has become apparent that a fourth certainty must be added to that list.
I am speaking, of course, of the certainty of more “Taken” movies in our future.
The first “Taken,” starring Liam Neeson as a former CIA operative who wipes out a gang of Albanian thugs after they kidnap his daughter in Paris for their sex-slave ring, took in an unexpected $227 million at the box office in 2009. While the revenue was unexpected, a sequel was not unexpected.
In fact, “Taken 2,” in which Neeson has to rescue his ex-wife from the revenge-bent relatives of those Albanian thugs, opened last weekend, and again astonished industry observers when it raked in a cool $50 million in just three days.
And now we can say with certainty that there will be a “Taken 3.” And probably a “Taken 4.” And a “Taken 5.”
Success breeds contempt and sequels in Hollywood.
For Neeson, who has been transformed by the franchise into an action hero in his 60s, the sequels will make him even richer than he already is.
For movie audiences, a franchise offers an opportunity to revisit characters they really like on a periodic basis.
The public is taken with Bryan Mills (Neeson), just as they were taken with Charles Bronson’s avenging architect in the “Death Wish” movies.
These characters do take the law into their own hands, which is supposed to be a bad thing, but audiences identify with their success in finding justice in a world that often has trouble with the concept.
Years from now, another cinematic vigilante will enthrall movie audiences, but until then, we’re stuck with the “Taken” franchise.
Here is a glimpse at what we might expect:
“Taken 3” (2014) — The Turkish Ministry of Tourism, which has spent more than three decades trying to get vacationers to forget the film “Midnight Express,” is upset that Neeson made its beloved Istanbul seem like a haven for corrupt cops and Albanian vigilantes in “Taken 2.” So the government authorizes a mission in which Turkish thugs kidnap Neeson’s favorite second cousin on his mother’s side during an extended vacation to London.
“Taken 4” (2016) — European pacifists have noticed that Neeson’s character has singlehandedly raised the crime rate in world capitals such as Paris, Istanbul and London, and have decided that he must be stopped. They kidnap the owner of a popular Italian restaurant, and threaten to add black olives and pineapple to every pizza delivered to Neeson’s home until he stops shooting people.
“Taken 5” (2018) — Neeson buys a puppy for his daughter and, you guessed it, the puppy is kidnapped.
“Taken 6” (2020) — Neeson’s daughter (still played by Maggie Grace) has finally recovered emotionally from her ordeal in the first movie, and she stupidly agrees to take another European vacation with her husband and infant daughter. Neeson’s granddaughter is kidnapped, and grandpa is called in to take appropriate measures because that’s what he does best.
“Taken 7” (2022) — Lenore (Famke Janssen) remarries Neeson and the loving couple take a cruise to Alaska for their honeymoon. A ruthless gang of cruise ship employees, including Doc, Gopher, Isaac and Capt. Stubing, threaten to kidnap the ship’s head chef after the buffet runs out of food.
“Taken 8” (2024) — Matt Damon, whose career has taken a turn for the worse after he appears in “Ocean’s 20,” has returned to the Bourne franchise in a thriller that finds Neeson’s character in an unusual situation. That’s right, Bryan Mills has been kidnapped on his way to an AARP meeting, and Lenore asks Jason Bourne to rescue him.
Reluctant at first because he thinks Mills is too violent, Bourne finally agrees to save Mills, although he needs directions to Albania, where Mills has been taken by the only thug left in that country.
“Taken 9” (2026) — Now retired, Mills buys a farm in Iowa. One night, he’s standing in his cornfield when he hears a voice: “If you build it, we won’t kidnap your cow.” He misunderstands the voice and builds a soccer field, and he has to rescue his cow from a group of angry but still dead baseball players, including “Shoeless” Joe” Jackson.
“Taken 10” (2029) — It’s now been 20 years since his daughter was kidnapped in the first “Taken” movie. The actor is 80 years old, and he is having trouble with some of the stunts, particularly the karate kicks. He really doesn’t want to do another “Taken,” but his adoring public demands one more film in the franchise. After much debate, the desperate writers come up with a familiar plot that involves the kidnapping of Neeson’s middle-aged daughter by Albanians, who are upset that they haven’t been featured in a big Hollywood movie since “Taken 2.”